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Students and Faculty Hold Rally in Support of Unionizing

Photo posted by @btoncollegeunited on Instagram

On Thursday afternoon, supporters and members of Bennington College United (“BCU”) gathered outside the barn to rally for the union to be recognized by the college’s administration.

BCU is the first of its kind. The college, in its nearly 100 years of education, has never had a faculty and staff union until now. It consists of 150 members, both full time staff and visiting faculty, as well as salaried and hourly employees such as campus safety officers. According to their online petition, which has now garnered over 1,000 signatures, BCU is “bargaining collectively to improve their work conditions, benefits, and wages.”

Photo by Terry Boddie

For November in Vermont, the rally takes place on an especially nice day. The sun rises high as union members and supporters gather to make signs before the rally. As this group makes their way to the flagpole, more are waiting. Not long after, a group of over 100 had congregated to voice their support for the union, and in response to an email sent by administration, namely Lorraine Atwood (Vice President of Finance and Administration), Maurice Hall (Provost), and Laura Walker, the previous day.

In the email, the college did accept BCU’s right to unionize, saying they “fully support the right of our colleagues to unionize.” They also noted what they “advised” BCU to implement in order for the union to be officially recognized: “there should be three separate bargaining units—one each for faculty, staff and campus safety”. BCU rejected this idea, referencing how the suggested separation directly contradicts the college’s often peddled buzz-phrase of ‘intentional community’ in an Instagram post on Friday..

The email then ventures into a more delicate aspect, the legalities, “Although the College faculty may not otherwise be able to unionize at all under the Supreme Court’s 1980 decision in NLRB v. Yeshiva University, we are willing to recognize the faculty.” The ruling made it significantly harder for faculty of private universities to unionize. Despite this comment, Bennington College United has remained steadfast in its dedication to unionizing.

Bennington College defines itself as a community. It seems only fair that the faculty members and staff, who are so incredibly essential to both the everyday operations of the college and to its overall reputation and future, are represented and protected, a mission to which Bennington College United is deeply committed.

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