Bates College staff has made headlines recently with their efforts to unionize a solid majority of their staff, save the managers, supervisors, tenured/tenure track faculty, and security personnel. With that unionization effort has come a sharp backlash from the Bates administration. Workers recently filed a complaint to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) about Bates’s union-busting practices in response to a selectively applied non-solicitation clause in the employee contract.
United Student Labor Action Coalition (USLAC) stands in solidarity with the Bates workers fighting to amplify their voices in the workplace. We also strongly condemn the Bates Administration’s efforts to suppress these very voices. Unions are the strength of the modern-day labor force, and an attempt to unionize is not only a material win for the workers and their conditions but also a moral win in the furthering of the workplace towards a more democratic model.
Wesleyan’s mission statement dedicates itself to fostering an education of “practical idealism” and the creation of a “community of students, faculty, and staff who think critically and creatively and who value independence of mind and generosity of spirit.” We must recognize that our workers are important members of our Wesleyan community, and as such, they should be supported in organizing efforts. Similarly, we believe that an administration that holds these stated values must stand up for other workers in similar situations, especially at an analogous institution like Bates.
We call on Wesleyan as an institution to take a stand in solidarity with the Bates workers in their efforts to unionize. We call on Bates at a bare minimum to maintain neutrality, ideally even to support this union. And we call on the Bates workers to continue their fight, for their justice will be won.
Dear brothers and sisters at Bates,
As members of the unionized workforce of Wesleyan’s Physical Plant, Office & Professional Employees Union, Local 153, we celebrate and stand in solidarity with your efforts to unite your voices, fight for justice, and secure better working conditions at Bates.
We believe that a union is the best tool that an employee has to make sure that their complaints are not just listened to, but acted upon. Our union has allowed us to speak with one voice as we have demanded fair wages, increased benefits, and safer conditions.
We urge you to stand strong in the face of pressure from the Bates administration and know that workers on college campuses across the country are not only rooting for your success but are also being inspired by your leadership, as they join the fight for justice as well.
You can find details of what we have won through unionizing at the end of this letter. We cannot wait to hear of your victory in the upcoming election.
In the struggle,
The Workers of Wesleyan’s Physical Plant, Office & Professional Employees Union, Local 153
What unionizing has won us
This year, we’ve won baseline annual raises of 2.5%, $1500 bonuses, and longevity payments between $250 and $1300 depending on years served for all members, as well as increases for individual pay grades. We receive 1.5x to 2x pay for overtime and emergency call-ins. We have five floating holidays in addition to eight paid holidays per year, and can earn up to 10 days of paid vacation with an additional day for every year worked between five and 20 years, up to 25 days of paid vacation, as well as up to six days of paid personal leave.
Through our union, we also have 85% employer-covered group health and dental insurance for ourselves and our dependents, and 100% employer-covered life and disability insurance. For our personal and professional development, we can also get tuition assistance up to $1,500 per year. As for our children, we can receive up to 50% reimbursement of the value of Wesleyan’s tuition for four years of undergraduate study at any college. We can also enroll in Wesleyan’s Graduate Liberal Studies program and earn a Master’s degree without tuition.
In addition, thanks to our union, we can only be disciplined or discharged for just cause. We have the right to grieve disciplinary action and challenge the University’s decision through arbitration.
Finally, forming the Physical Plant union at Wesleyan has never harmed our relationships with our supervisors. In fact, unionizing has only made it easier for us to have collaborative, open, and positive relationships with our managers and supervisors.
United Student Labor Action Coalition (USLAC) is a student collective dedicated to supporting workers on campus. They can be reached at email@example.com.
The workers of Wesleyan’s Physical Plant are unionized under the Office & Professional Employees Union (OPEIU), Local 153, which represents workers across the tri-state area. They can be reached via their representative, Seth Goldstein, at firstname.lastname@example.org.