Response to Mary’s Email on 3/28

We understand that many of you have questions regarding the email sent out yesterday to the Hampshire community by Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer Mary McEneany. This letter uses the language of social responsibility without making firm commitments to fulfill that responsibility. It touches on, but does not resolve, the core concerns of the workers, their union representatives, or the Student Worker Solidarity Network.

We demand that our current workers are guaranteed their jobs, wages, benefits, and union status during the transition to a new provider. Under the plan that this letter outlines, our current workers, including people who have been a part of our community for decades, lose any sense of job security. We spoke with one worker who doesn’t know if he will be able to live in Northampton anymore. Will he still have a job next year? Will he have to move back in with his parents? As students we have to try to understand this transition from the perspective of a worker. What does it feel like when your future is upended?

Workers who have been with Hampshire for decades (Annie just reached 40 years at Hampshire a few weeks ago) and are finally earning a living wage (~$20/hr) would likely return to starting wages if rehired. Imagine being in your fifties, with a mortgage and kids to support and then having your income halved. Imagine giving your life to one community, and then being forced to reapply and start over. That’s what this new deal would do. The workers are not interested in vague language around “hiring preference.” “Hiring preference” is not a guarantee of continued employment and we will not treat it as such.

We demand transparency in this process. This letter does not address the fact that students have been given next to no opportunity to be a part of this process. Even if this message had addressed our concerns, the fact remains that there has not been clear and open communication between Mary McEneany and the workers or the student body. Bridge workers found out that they might be losing their jobs in an email that wasn’t even addressed to them. Perhaps she would not have to send out an email addressing supposed misinformation if her process and decision-making hadn’t happened behind closed doors. Our opposition to the new food service operation proposal is grounded in all of the available information. We have not been told who was bidding to become our new food service provider for the Kern Center and the Bridge Cafe or whether a decision has already been made. The entire process has been characterized by secrecy, lack of student input, and absolutely no accountability.

It is important to recognize the long history of labor movements. Bosses have always tried to dissolve attempts by workers to come together because unionized workers stand up for themselves. Promises that the needs of workers will be taken into consideration are insufficient when people’s livelihoods are at stake. Only a signed agreement can guarantee that the workers of Hampshire College are secure in their current positions, with their currents benefits and salaries, and with their current union. Union-busting has a long history on college campuses, including Hampshire. These practices that make workers insecure in their jobs go against our values as a college, and as a community. In her letter, Mary states that if the Bridge workers want a union contract in the future, they will not be obstructed, but the workers have made it extremely clear that they have already built a union.

What is the point of a union if the college can simply fire all the workers, and then rehire them without a union? This is disloyal, irresponsible, and unethical business practice and cannot be tolerated as long as we hold ourselves up as an institution dedicated to social justice. The workers have already voted for a union. It is not up to the college to annul that decision.

We should be clear that we fully support and are excited about the switch to a new vendor. But Mary has said herself that maintaining the union contract and keeping the workers would not threaten this transition.

If you would like to discuss this further, please come to the planning meeting on Wednesday at 6:30 in the Centrum Gallery (Donut 1) or contact Forrest (fjj13), Asa (awn14), Jake (pjb12), Hannah (hl15), or Rosalinda (romc12) if you can’t make it at that time.

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