Ethan Bachand ‘22
Chief News Editor
Over the past few months, a group of workers at the College of the Holy Cross have been at an impasse with the Human Resources department. Members of the Holy Cross Hourly Employees Alliance (HCHEA), an unofficial organization comprised of a variety of facilities staff, have felt their complaints have gone unheard due to a misunderstanding of their intentions. In O’Kane, however, the Human Resources department maintains that they cannot negotiate with any group that does not go through the channels with the National Labor Relations Board.
The situation came to light three weeks ago, after Holy Cross employee Bob Kovacs submitted a letter to The Spire. Mr. Kovacs, who says he has worked on the hill for nearly fifty years, claims that Human Resources did not address complaints brought up by him on behalf of fellow members of the alliance. He told the story of a meeting on March 10, when he met with Human Resources leadership. In the letter, Mr. Kovacs wrote “They didn’t care about us, not even a little bit.” Mr. Kovacs substantiated this statement by claiming that Human Resources threatened to shred any HCHEA literature left after the meeting.
Two weeks later, Interim Chief Human Resources Officer Judith Dorsey responded to Mr. Kovacs. In the letter, which was reviewed by The Spire, Mrs. Dorsey wrote that “the College is unwilling to engage in voluntary recognition of the group you described.” Mrs. Dorsey went on to explain that “the College appreciates and respects its employees’ rights to engage in concerted protected activities and would respond lawfully and appropriately concerning any petition that might be filed.”
Mr. Kovacs, however, took issue with the department’s return of two letters that he left at the initial meeting. These letters, as described by Mr. Kovacs, contained information about the alliance and what goals they were hoping to achieve. In response to Mr. Kovacs, Mrs. Dorsey wrote that their decision to not open the literature stemmed from their analysis of the alliance as an informal group.
Mr. Kovacs questioned this line of logic in his letter. “I don’t know how you can formulate an opinion about material that they have never read,” he said. Mr. Kovacs reiterated in his letter that the HCHEA has no intention to be legally recognized. He wrote, “Had they taken the time to read our literature they would have seen that we are not a ‘legally recognized’ organization nor do we want to be. We have never had an election to validate our legal status. During our membership drive some people stated their desire to join and become members. Those who didn’t want to join merely didn’t join.”
Despite Mr. Kovacs and the organization’s desire to remain a non-legally recognized alliance, the College asserts that such a position does not change their decision. John Hill, Director of Communications for the College of the Holy Cross, clarified the reasoning for this stance. Since Mr. Kovacs spoke for multiple other members of the staff, Mr. Hill said “…the College has a legal responsibility to take a different approach when someone requests to be recognized as an official representative of a group representing other employees (regardless of whether that group calls itself a union, association, or alliance). That is what happened in this instance. In such circumstances, the College is obligated to first determine whether that individual and that group have, in fact, been freely selected by a majority of an appropriate group of employees. Federal labor laws prohibit any employer from unilaterally recognizing and negotiating with a representative of a group unless there is a definitive determination that the person represents a clear majority of an appropriate bargaining unit.”
At the same time, Mr. Hill reaffirmed the College’s commitment to its workers. In his email, Mr. Hill wrote, “The College appreciates and respects the right of employees to engage in concerted protective activities, and to decide for themselves whether or not they wish to be represented by a particular organization or association. The College refers these types of inquiries to what we believe is the best method to determine whether employees wish to be represented, which is a fair election overseen by the National Labor Relations Board in accordance with federal labor law.”
With Mr. Kovacs trying to open a line of communication for the group and Human Resources unable to recognize the organization informally, both sides seem unable to meet in the middle. While individual workers are more than able to bring their concerns to Human Resources, as communicated by the College, the possibility for unofficial group communications seems bleak.