|Local 712 President Bob Smith and Vice President Bob Wilson.|
Members of UE Local 712 - the maintenance workers at Kenyon College - are fighting the school's plan to outsource their jobs to Sodexo, Inc., a company with a bad record in its treatment of employees. Students, faculty, alumni and community members have supported the union with two public forums, letters, petitions, and a June 14 rally on campus. There is also an online petition campaign to pressure Kenyon to change course.
The local has received tremendous support from Kenyon students, faculty, alumni, and members of the Gambier community, as well as from the other campus union International Association of Machinists, (IAM) Local 2794, which represents custodial and grounds keeping workers and is also facing the threat of outsourcing. A petition circulated by Kenyon professors has been signed by the majority of the faculty. In two campus forums, and through letters to the editor and other media, students, professors, alumni and others have defended the UE maintenance workers as part of the "Kenyon community" who deserve better than the treatment they're receiving from the college administration.
"It's totally unbelievable that the college we've worked for all these years would do this to us," says Local 712 President Bob Smith, who also said the local is grateful and "really impressed by the community support."
The college has never approached the union claiming financial problems and seeking the union's help, nor has it ever asked for help improving the maintenance operation. On the other hand, Local 712 has repeatedly tried to make the college administration aware of inefficiency and mismanagement in maintenance, to which administrators have turned a deaf ear.
On June 19, in response to the widespread opposition to its outsourcing plans, Kenyon College announced that it was "suspending" negotiations with Sodexo, and that Kenyon College President S. Georgia Nugent would be appointing an "advisory panel... to help determine the best path forward... to manage its buildings and grounds in a more efficient and cost-effective manner without the sacrifice of jobs." The panel, however, will be hand-picked by the college president, and in a meeting between the union and the administration, it quickly became clear that the college is not retreating from its plans to subcontract to Sodexo. Rather, the "advisory panel" appears to be a public relations maneuver to make the college appear more reasonable, while still pursuing its original goal of eliminating union employees.
Local 712 is continuing its fight against outsourcing, and calling on its supporters, at Kenyon and around the country, to keep up the pressure on the college administrators. To support UE Local 712 members in their fight for job security, please sign the online petition at this link.