Sheen Kim ’23
You helped start the SWCD?
Yes. In the fall of 2021 it was essentially me, a couple of other folks, and what was then a group of very frustrated dining workers. We represent about 180 undergraduate dining workers.
After meeting with administrators about your workplace requests, what happened?
Months and months of back and forth. We grew frustrated.
How would you characterize union members—what sets them apart from other students?
Many of them are first-gen, low-income, international, queer, students of color. It’s fascinating that Dartmouth—we all know this—has this very stark stratification of wealth. We have students serving coffee to a vast majority of students who are wealthier.
So, in February you moved to strike?
We sent out a vote, and we had a 99-percent “yes” rate for striking. We let the College know and requested a response by the end of the next day.
And the next day you settled?
Yes. We got an email at 10 a.m. saying the College was “prepared to make significant moves toward your package, can you meet?” Later that day the administration agreed to our proposal, which includes a new $21-per-hour wage and mental health sick pay, among other things. Pay obviously is one of the core items of the contract. It was between $13 and $15 an hour, but during the pandemic the school had paid the $21 hourly in hazard pay.
Did you celebrate?
Yes, but first I went home to lie down for a few hours. The excitement and the joy really didn’t hit until later. In that immediate moment, it was like, “Okay, we did that. We showed that we have power and even without striking, they knew that there was a force behind the movement that has been growing across campus the last year and a half.”
Could the union grow to include other student workers?
Easily. These wins should not be limited to Dartmouth Dining Service workers. There’s power in campus unionizing, no matter what shop you are in.