To Oberlin College,
Historically, the United Auto Workers union has played an important role in pioneering civil rights and freedoms in and out of the workplace. The UAW has walked hand in hand with civil rights leaders and the civil rights movement — from helping fund the Montgomery bus boycott and the march from Selma to Montgomery to providing an office at the Solidarity House for Martin Luther King Jr., where he penned his “I Have a Dream” speech. The UAW was also there to post bail for Dr. King’s release in 1963 from a Birmingham City Jail. That is what the UAW stands for.
In a recent email from President Ambar where she spoke from the heart about the black community, she mentioned that “Oberlin has had from its founding a commitment to solving racial inequity.” That racial inequity is the exact thing the UAW fights against. As over thirty percent of the potentially outsourced jobs are held by people of color, it would suffice to say that outsourcing would not uphold Oberlin’s commitment to solving racial inequity, as people will get paid less and have fewer benefits.
For the past four months, we have been involved in negotiations between the UAW and Oberlin College. Starting with the threat of outsourcing the custodial and dining positions on February 18, through the complications of COVID-19, to the most recent events of social injustice and protests across the country. Through all of this, Oberlin College has been willing to hear out the UAW on its stance against outsourcing, which we are vehemently against. The UAW has provided ways to achieve significant savings if the College were willing to move forward together. Those are savings that would fall mostly on the shoulders of the threatened employees. However, the College won’t budge off its stance of being able to provide a guarantee to those employees that, if a deal were struck, the possibility of outsourcing would not still loom overhead. So now we are just awaiting the College’s ultimate decision: Outsource jobs and further perpetuate those racial inequities, or work with the UAW to come up with a contract that is fair for both parties with the intent of continuing to maintain the long-term relationship between Oberlin College and the UAW?
Regardless of the College’s decision, the UAW will still lead the way in advocating for workers’ rights, and ultimately, civil rights. The UAW will be part of the solution and not the problem, especially here in Oberlin. So, in this historically important time in our country’s history, it’s your time, Oberlin College, to do the right thing. Can you save money by outsourcing? Sure. But you’ll trade quality, commitment, love, and your values. So take this time and opportunity to align your actions and words with Oberlin College’s motto: “Learning and Labor.”
Erik Villar, Matthew Kubach, Buffy Lukachko, and Al Flemming
Oberlin UAW 2192 Leadership Team