Students Rally as OCOPE Negotiations Continue


Bryan Rubin, Photo editor

Michael J. Frantz, of Cleveland firm Frantz Ward LLP, leaves negotiations with OCOPE Friday afternoon as protestors line the exit route. The labor union, which represents 190 campus workers, is undergoing contract negotiations with administrators until June 30.

Madeline Stocker, Editor-in-Chief

Students, faculty and College employees from multiple labor unions gathered outside Hall Auditorium earlier today in support of campus workers currently engaging in contract negotiations with the College.

The Oberlin College and Professional Employees, a union of campus workers, met with administrators Friday morning to continue a series of negotiations that began April 12 and are slated to end June 30. OCOPE, founded 46 years ago, represents 190 administrative assistance, office workers and librarians on campus, as well as others.

According to OCOPE members present in the negotiating room, the union made “tentative contract agreements” during today’s conference, though they have yet to break ground on the specific financial proposals of their contract.

Members of OCOPE’s negotiating team said the College’s negotiating team agreed not to move a May 23 negotiating date to an off-campus location.

Over 75 students joined with the union members behind the Oberlin Inn in an attempt to make their voices heard to labor lawyers exiting the negotiation room. Led by Joseph Maiville, OC ’07, the library’s Evening Circulation Desk Supervisor and a member of OCOPE, students hoisted signs and shook noisemakers while chanting, “Without OCOPE We Can’t Cope.”

While OCOPE acknowledged that they cannot discuss any large changes they will be negotiating with the College this year, they listed healthcare, job security and tuition remission as ever-contentious issues.

“It’s really important that folks show up for workers in Oberlin, because we are dependent on their labor — they’re what make this school run,” said Jeeva Muhil, College junior and student organizer for the protest.

The union held a similar demonstration in 2010, when a group of over 100 students and employees demonstrated outside of Cox after the College halted contract negotiations. After a march from Wilder Bowl to the Science Center, President Krislov agreed to continue discussing the union’s proposed contract.

Members of OCOPE’s negotiating team said they hope to return to the negotiating table five more times over the course of the next two months. Until then, OCOPE hopes to hold several more events on campus, culminating in a potential action on Commencement.

“Alumni support is just as crucial as student support,” Maiville said. “While students are the now, alumni are the continuation of the now.”

Throughout past negotiation processes, the College has stressed their desire to emerge from the negotiating table with a contract that is fair and equitable to OCOPE employees.