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Victory for Metz Workers

After almost a semester of contract
negotiations, Metz workers have won a new
contract. Earlham Administration and Metz
declined to comment when the Word asked for
specific numbers on how many workers had
their contracts renewed, and whether or not
they were entitled to any added benefits such as
access to health insurance. Both offices said that
they did not have access to such information.
The contract renewals come after

December’s union delegation where over 50 stu-
dents, members of faculty and workers marched

into the Metz Offices. The group, organized by

workers and Unite Here, the union that repre-
sents Metz workers, asked for management to

return to the negotiating table. Management

had promised to have a response to the work-
ers’ proposal almost a week prior to the protests.

Students packed themselves into the small office
in a single-file order which left a clear path to
the door. Many more students stood outside the
offices, occupying the entire staircase. After four

people within the Metz office read short state-
ments, the crowd clapped and chanted “Justice!

Justice! Justice!” with the protesters dissipating
in less than 10 minutes.

For Ryan Murphy, a history profes-
sor with a focus on U.S. and labor history, the

protest was thoughtful, concise, professional

and a total success. “It did exactly what it was
supposed to do. It made Metz management on
campus know that [we] care.” Joanna Swanger,

a professor of Peace and Global Studies mir-
rored the sentiment by saying, “This action was

to show Metz that there were a larger set of eyes

on this issue and that they couldn’t keep stall-
ing.”

However, on Friday December 7th,
Avis Stewart sent out an email to the Earlham
community titled, “Protest and Free Speech.” In
the email he says, “The Cabinet and I are aware
that an incident occurred yesterday around 3:45

p.m. when Earlham students and faculty partici-
pating in a protest confronted Metz employees

in their offices in Earlham Hall. Those employ-
ees felt intimidated and confined.” While Avis

goes on to affirm “the rights to protest and free

speech,” he reiterates that intimidation and con-
finement violate the Principles and Practices and

warns that this type of behavior should not be
repeated.
For many people who were at the
protest, Avis’s response felt misaligned with

their actions. For people such as Nathaniel Mc-
crickard, a senior who attended the delegation,

it was not that the delegation had violated the
Principles and Practices but had brought them
to action. In an email response to Avis Stewart,

he argues that, “what has been implied to me by
this email is that we should not exercise those
rights to protest because those in positions of
power may be made uncomfortable. It is those
Principles and Practices that tell us exactly why
what we did yesterday was morally right, and

why there should be much more protesting go-
ing on at Earlham in the present, and future.”

For Joanna Swanger, the email and faculty re-
sponses were disheartening, “I was disappointed

that people thought that there are students and
colleagues on this campus who would engage in
acts of intimidation in that way. I’ve never seen
it. It’s unfortunate that there are people that
would jump to that specific conclusion but it’s
certainly not what happened.”
Despite Avis’s email and Earlham
Management’s initial response, the delegation
was successful. It pushed contract negotiations
to completion, built further bonds between the
union and the students, and helped to provide
the workers with a better contract. However, it
appears that questions of labor justice are far
from resolved. It will require a sustained student
and faculty effort in supporting the leadership

of the workers in holding Metz and Earlham ac-
countable. Joanna Swanger says that, “As a commu-
nity we can’t be negligent on our obligation to en-
sure that the workers are treated as well as possible.”

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