Posted by Skidmore Labor Student Alliance
Editor's Note: The views expressed below do not necessarily represent the views of The Skidmore News or the Skidmore News editorial board.
We appreciate the Student Government Association (SGA) statement on labor negotiations as a furthering of dialogue regarding the ongoing negotiations for a contract for SEIU workers on campus. However, we would like to address several issues with the statement and the evident lack of critical thought that went into its release:
We are not sure which of our actions SGA is referring to as "intrusive and inflammatory." The silent demonstration of solidarity with workers on Case Green on September 19th was as quiet, respectful, orderly, and conducive to good faith negotiations as possible. The purpose of the demonstration was to show workers just how many students stand with and support them and to draw the College administration's attention to the students' knowledge and growing concern about negotiations.
If the statement is referring instead to the delivery of the healthcare student body petition during negotiations, there are several points to be made as well. Two representatives from The Skidmore Labor Student Alliance (SLSA) came into negotiations unannounced, but the delivery of the petition process was respectful, brief, and succinct. It demonstrated solidarity and genuine concern for workers' lives and healthcare. In a survey conducted by SEIU, service workers identified their healthcare plan to be the biggest concern during negotiations. We never act without first consulting workers.
The SGA statement announces hope that SLSA's further actions will respect the processes of the NLRB, but it seems the SGA (or at least the members of SGA Executive Committee that put out this statement) has failed to question whether our own administration and human resources department is respecting these processes. Workers have brought it to our attention that Skidmore College is deducting 5% of workers' gross earnings rather than the agreed-upon 5% of the healthcare monthly premium. This would be a violation of the current union contract. This violation would be one example of what is eroding 'good faith' negotiations, not a 30-second petition delivery by two students.
The Skidmore College community is made up of many constituencies of diverse and even divergent interests. The College and the workers do NOT have the same interests, and the discontent of the workers and the process of negotiations demonstrate this very clearly. We also look forward to an agreeable outcome to both parties, but we understand that the workers have more at stake. The SLSA stands with workers in their fight for a fair contract, rather than standing with human resources in their effort to cut costs.
We view the SGA's statement and position as highly irresponsible. As we understand it, SGA's statement was written by the 8-member Executive Committee and never approved by the senate. Nevertheless, the statement was printed out and distributed to workers as an "Official SGA Statement on Labor Negotiations." We see this act as a way not only to divide the student body on this issue but also to dishearten and disempower the workers by condemning our actions of solidarity as intrusive. Workers are reaching out to us for our support and thanking us for our past actions, and now a supposed representative of the student body is condemning the only organized solidarity efforts by students to date.
This is where critical thought intersects with life outside the classroom. We encourage everyone to think about the union battle and our workers' struggles in the larger context of the labor movement. We especially encourage the SGA Executive Committee and the Senators, who weren't consulted about the statement, to think carefully about how they can best "support the Skidmore College community in its negotiations between the administration and its union workers." A statement condemning SLSA's actions of solidarity is doing just the opposite.
We, the Skidmore Labor Student Alliance, hope that all students regardless of affiliation with SGA or SLSA will take this issue seriously. We encourage further dialogue, and we are open to criticism as well as change. All of our meetings are open to students and workers, as we are hoping to create a level of involvement that's never before existed on our campus. It is a particularly contentious time to be doing solidarity work with a body of employees that is so divided, but we hope to create a long-lasting relationship and alliance between the student and working body for years to come. We seek to build a strong, inclusive alliance.
If anyone has concerns or thoughts, please know it is more constructive to share them with us than it is to undermine our efforts of solidarity. If there are any workers reading this statement, we want you to know that SGA's disparaging statement is not going to deter us from standing with you now or in the future.