On April 15, 2022, it was announced via press release to the Monitor that UFCW filed an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against Hamilton College. The ULP was filed on April 13 after the first negotiation meeting between the College and the newly formed Student Admissions Workers Union. The meeting in question occurred on April 8 and was filed because the College refused to conduct the meeting partially over Zoom. At the time, two out of three students on the negotiating committee were isolating themselves because one had contracted COVID-19 and one had been a close contact. Hamilton College policy requires students who have tested positive for COVID-19 to isolate and avoid group settings. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) encourages close contacts of infected individuals to get tested and to avoid group settings if they develop symptoms. This meant that one student was in-person in the negotiating meeting.
According to UFCW, “Ray Pascucci, the College’s attorney, terminated the meeting within the first five minutes, stating that the school will only negotiate in-person and would not proceed with negotiations unless the student negotiating team members participating on zoom were cut off. When we questioned the logic behind that stance, Pascucci stated: ‘that’s the way negotiations always take place.’”
Robert Ciancaglini, a UFCW officer and a lead negotiator in the meeting, said, “The fact that Mr. Pascucci and his client (Hamilton College), refused to agree to have two of our student negotiating team members participate in our scheduled first day of negotiations after we explained that both of them were prohibited from appearing in person due to their Covid exposure speaks for itself in terms of their obligation to negotiate in good faith under the National Labor Relations Act.”
Pascucci did not respond to a request for comment.
This story was repeated by Izzy Rutkey ‘22, a member of the negotiation committee and senior tour guide, at the Hamilton College Young Democratic Socialists of America’s "May Day Fest" on May 1, 2022. She was the one student who attended the meeting in person on April 8. In a later comment to the Monitor, Rutkey explained, “The College’s lawyer had previously indicated that the College will only negotiate in person. This was stated when the College proposed two dates for negotiation that were over spring break and we agreed to them provided that we could do the negotiations via zoom since we would be home. No reason was given for the refusal to bargain via Zoom [on April 8] even when asked.”
According to the College, however, the decision to make the meetings in-person only was an explicit agreement. Additionally, the College claimed that UFCW attempted to record the meeting, which was also explicitly agreed would not occur. Eric Cortés-Kopp ‘22, one of the students on the negotiation committee who was on Zoom, denied that the union attempted to record the meeting. Rutkey also corroborated this.
Following these events, the College then filed their own ULP against UFCW on April 19, taking the opposite side of the union on these given events.
In a statement to the Monitor, the College wrote, “Obviously it was disappointing to be caught off guard with a format other than what we understood to be agreed upon by both parties. The College offered to proceed in person with laptops closed and no recording, but the Union was unwilling to do so. The next session of collective bargaining went forward in person and as scheduled on April 13. The College is prepared to continue to move forward on the mutually agreeable terms in accordance with longstanding principles of good faith bargaining. Another meeting is scheduled in May.”
On the outcomes of the April 13 meeting, Rutkey said, “We came to tentative agreements on two very very simple proposals. One of which was agreed to with no changes, the other was agreed to with language changes from the College. No discussion was had on any other proposal and the College chose to end the meeting after the two tentative agreements rather than continuing to go through proposals.”
“Our main goals are safety, guaranteed hours, and increased pay,” Rutkey said of the union’s goals in the negotiations. “We want to make sure tour guides do not have to give tours in blizzards or when it is really icy outside. We want to be properly compensated for our time (we currently earn a wage that is one of the lowest allowed by the College in its wage tier list). We want to be paid for the entire time we are scheduled even if we do not have to give a tour. We aren’t asking for much, just for respect from the employers who claim we have one of the most important jobs on campus.”