Students and some local elected officials gathered on Cornell's campus last week. Credit: Photo provided

ITHACA, N.Y.—In a brief update to last week’s rally outside of Cornell University in support of United Auto Workers, The Ithaca Voice has confirmed that UAW members voted resoundingly on Friday to reject the latest contract offer from the school.

UAW Local 2300 President LeVon Brewer announced the vote result in an email to members. The final vote, which took place Aug. 28, was 28 percent against and 15 percent in favor, with those another 57 percent abstaining from the vote. The union represents a variety of workers on Cornell’s campus, from campus cleaning staff to dining workers and more.

The tentative agreement, as it was presented to workers prior to their vote, offered a four percent wage increase now and next year for all workers, with a yearly bonus dependent on seniority: $300 for those with up to 10 years of service, ranging up to $1,000 for those with 30 years of service or more, which would be given each of the next two years (it appears the agreement would have been a two-year contract). There are several other aspects of the proposed agreement, though they are moot now after the rejection.

Taken from examples distributed by union leadership, the agreement would have meant that a custodian in the S02 job category with 15 years of experience would be making $19.50 per hour as a base, plus a shift differential addition that would bring that to $20.75 per hour and a yearly longevity bonus of $500 based on the 15 years experience. Alternatively, a dining worker with 1.5 years of service would be making $18.41 per hour and a longevity bonus of $300.

Another contract offer vote failed in late July.

The union and school will continue negotiations, as there is a contract extension in place, but that extension is only until Oct. 31, 2022. Brewer declined to comment for this story, while the school offered the following statement, attributed to Cornell Vice President Joel Malina who said they would be re-engaging with the union “in the next few weeks to determine their next steps.”

“The University is committed to its obligation to bargain in good faith with the UAW and to provide excellent wages and benefits to all its employees, whether or not represented by a union,” Malina wrote. “The tentative agreement voted on by the UAW membership on Monday was the result of a negotiation between the University and the UAW bargaining team, including the local officers and international representative.”

Brewer did send a follow-up email to members on Aug. 31, 2022 that appeared to argue against any current thought of a strike (or distance the union from the aforementioned rally on Cornell’s campus), though members could theoretically still opt to do so at some point if negotiations stall.

“We would like to bring to your attention that we are not coordinating any activities at this time that may jeopardize negotiations with Cornell University or set the grounds for the University to file a labor charge against the UAW,” read a note signed by Brewer and two other members of local UAW leadership. “We will continue to bargain in good faith and in accordance with Article 6 of the CBA and will assess what needs to be done moving forward. We thank you for your continued patience as we work through the process of negotiations.”

Included in the bottom of the message is a copy-and-paste of Article 6 of the CBA between Cornell and UAW, which explicitly forbids a strike or work stoppage and says that the university will take “whatever affirmative action is necessary to prevent and bring about the termination of such action or interference.”

The clause also stipulates that Cornell will not lock out employees during the length of the contract.

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Managing Editor at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.com