OCOPE Files Grievances Against College

The Oberlin College Office and Professional Employees union has filed multiple grievances against the College. OCOPE claims the College violated their contract by eliminating or reducing union jobs and then assigning the work to outside companies or non-union members.

Earlier this year, the College was found to be in violation of OCOPE’s collective bargaining agreement following an arbitration process with the National Labor Relations Board. If the newly-filed grievances reach the level of arbitration, it will be the second time in two years that OCOPE has brought the College to a hearing.

OCOPE represents approximately 170 employees. Within the year, three OCOPE positions have been eliminated — a building services specialist, an assistant in the Office of Development and Alumni Affairs, and an administrative assistant in Disability Resources. This is in the wake of a financial deficit that has resulted in cuts across the board for all divisions and departments of the College and Conservatory.

Additionally, two OCOPE positions have seen their hours reduced — a building services specialist and an administrative assistant in the Office of Residential Education.

OCOPE President Tracy Tucker feels that the positions were wrongfully eliminated.

“When they eliminate a position, it’s because the work no longer exists,” Tucker said. “We know that’s not the case here.”

She emphasized that many affected positions conducted work that directly helps students.

“Meredith Raimondo is the one who had to make these reductions,” Tucker said. “She is telling us that these services weren’t needed. I don’t quite understand why you wouldn’t need to serve the students.”

One affected employee is Scott Stanfield, a building’s service specialist who has worked with the College for 23 years.

“They took a full-time position and reduced it. They let [Stanfield] do the work of a full-time person in three-and-a-half hours a day,” said OCOPE Vice President Diane Lee.

“Scott Stanfield was busy all the time. Everyone was blindsided by his job being reduced,” added Tucker.

Tucker explained that after Stanfield’s hours were reduced, he often had to instruct outside workers on how to complete the tasks he once performed as a full-time employee.

“Scott had to tell these moving companies where and how to do his work orders,” said Tucker. “It cost them more money and wasted more time than if they had just left Scott’s position alone.”

Workers hired from outside OCOPE may not have undergone sufficient security checks, according to Tucker.

“We raised concern with the College because these movers were given key card access to all student rooms, to all dorms,” Tucker said. “We asked whether they had been given background checks because we have no idea about these people.”

The eliminations and reductions were motivated by financial concerns.

“The College faces ongoing structural deficits because expenditures continue to grow faster than revenue,” Vice President and Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo wrote in an email to the Review. “To create financial resiliency — which includes both bringing down costs and creating opportunities to invest in the areas most central to Oberlin’s mission — the College will need to make changes in the way it functions, including a review of staffing models.”

OCOPE representatives feel there are more effective ways for the College to reach financial stability.

“Raimondo said that she had to cut $1 million,” Tucker said. “I do not see how that has been accomplished with the reductions of OCOPE positions when money is spent to have other people do the work.”

Tucker added that OCOPE made efforts to find solutions that did not involve eliminating jobs.

“We asked to sit down with the College to offer remedies to avoid cutting these positions that active people held,” Tucker said. “We wanted to come up with other ideas. We asked the College if they would put a hold on this elimination and reduction for 30 days and work with us. They said they could not. That they had to move forward. There were vacant positions that they could have eliminated.”

Ultimately, OCOPE hopes to convince the College to reinstate the eliminated positions.