Campus Work Update: NLRB Postpones Election Hearing

The National Labor Relations Board considers legal questions raised by a petition to conduct an election for the first-ever campus-wide union of exclusively undergraduate student workers.


On Oct. 29, Region 8 of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) postponed indefinitely a hearing and other proceedings related to an Oct. 18 election petition filed on behalf of the Kenyon Student Worker Organizing Committee (K-SWOC) so that the NLRB may consider the important legal issues raised by the petition. The petition seeks an election to determine whether all undergraduate student workers at Kenyon should be represented by the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) for purposes of collective bargaining.

The NLRB’s action responds to an Oct. 21 motion filed by Kenyon College to dismiss or stay the petition. In its motion, Kenyon points out that the NLRB has not decided previously whether an election in a campus-wide unit of exclusively undergraduate students is appropriate under federal labor law. In addition to this jurisdictional issue, the NLRB’s election rules would require Kenyon to disclose private information contained in education records of the hundreds of students whom the union seeks to represent, which risks violating the privacy rights of students under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

In a separate action on Oct. 28, the NLRB dismissed a Sep. 28 unfair labor practice charge filed by a student worker, claiming discrimination based on union activities, due to a failure to present any evidence in support of the charge. This follows K-SWOC’s withdrawal of an earlier unfair labor practice charge, which came after the NLRB had conducted a full investigation into allegations about Kenyon’s actions during K-SWOC’s strike last April. The NLRB’s policy is to allow a charging party to withdraw its charges to avoid having them dismissed as lacking merit.

In December 2020, Kenyon completed a three-month review of a request by K-SWOC for the College to voluntarily recognize a union of student workers. While Kenyon respects the roles that unions play in traditional workplaces, Kenyon’s undergraduate students attend the college for an education; student jobs all have an educational component and exist to fulfill work study requirements and provide financial support for their education. Kenyon believes that it can best fulfill its educational mission, preserve its collaborative environment, and meet students' financial needs by working directly with students and their families.