Staff Recollections of the Early Days
from: The Physical History of Hampshire College. 1989.
Howard Paul: As a point of introduction here I think many of you know who we are, but there are a few here perhaps who do not know. On my left is Ruth Hammen, the "senior citizen" of the Hampshire College organization. Ruth has been here many, many years, even more than I. And on my right is Sheila Moos, who came here shortly after I came here, because I hired her. Collectively I think we have sixty-six years of employment at Hampshire College...
Ruth Hammen: The thing that occurs to me about the physical beginnings was that it was absolutely amazing, this beautiful property and nothing except some old farm buildings. And it's not often that a college is started that way...What I refer to as the first building of Hampshire College was up the hill. The architects wanted a vantage point to get the lay of the land when they were doing their plans. It was four telephone poles and a platform and a ladder. And I'd go out there at lunchtime with my brown bag and climb up the ladder and sit there and look at Howard Atkins' domain. It was an absolutely beautiful place to eat your lunch. To me, that was the first building of Hampshire College. The first thing actually put up because we were there. (p.1-2)
Sheila Moos: I'd like to tell you a little bit about the way I came to Hampshire. I had the tour in the old blue pickup truck and it was, as Ruth said, it was this incredible experience. It was untouched, and we had an opportunity to do everything just right. And I started working for Howard in Physical Plant. I can remember Andy [Weneczk] and I mulling over blueprints, and I said to Andy one day, "Andy, I have no idea what I'm doing." He said, "That's OK, I don't either," he said, "We'll just pretend," and we pretended alot. And then Dudley Woodall came along and he was the Business Manager. And Dudley's favorite expression was, "This is a clean sheet of paper. We're working with a clean sheet of paper here. We can do this right. We can just do this right." And so between Howard and Woody and myself and Andy, we really tried to do it right, and I think...the other thing you have to remember is that years ago, we didn't have the Personnel Office, we didn't have a giant Business Office, we didn't have a huge custodial staff, so anything that had to be done, one of us somehow did it. I can remember one day Woody came out and said to me, "Today you're going to be the Personnel Director. Interview these three people." And Howard would come out and say, "We need colors for this building, get the colors, get the blanks, make sure this is all in order." But I think back 20 years ago and it was truly an amazing experience and you sort of bonded with each brick that went into the buildings, because you figured you almost put it there yourself. And then when the students did come, I think we even did matriculation. We did matriculation in the library. And we were sort of counting off the students as they arrived. And I remember Woody saying, "They showed. Here's another one. They're coming! They're all coming!" It's like--we're having them to dinner and they're all showing up. But it was--you can't possibly describe the feeling of what it was like 20 years ago. As Ruth says, we would all scramble around the table and collate for the Trustees' Meeting, and we would all do really whatever had to be done. And it sort of culminated in this blossoming thing that is continuing today. (p.6-7)
Ruth Hammen: The first summer that Franklin Patterson (and his secretary I was) was writing The Making of a College, which I brought along, because I typed it. But I would be at the typewriter in Stiles House (now the Admissions Office) and people would come in and say, "What a beautiful spot!" and I would say, "Is it? Tell me!" I was looking at the typewriter. I still look at the typewriter--not much on touch typing. (p.7)
30 May 1973
Lily-Tulip Cup Corporation
Customer Service Division
405 Lexington Avenue
New York, New York
We have been serving coffee to guests in some of your hot drink cups for some time now. Recently someone noticed a spot on the bottom of the inside of his cup which appears to be, upon closer inspection, a flattened, plastic-coated bug. I've enclosed the specimen for your examination. Perhaps it says something about your sanitary practices.
We're all for the preservation of nature, but...
(Ms.) Robin L. Stolk
Staff Union Drive, 1974
[These documents from the staff union drive represent views on all sides of the issue. The first and last sections are from The Staff Reunion, a newsletter put out by union supporters among the staff. Also present are three memos to the community, one from Vice-President Robert Birney, giving the administration view, and two from two different groups of staff people.]
From: The Staff Reunion, Nov. 12, 1974
District 65 is currently engaged in a large scale effort to organize clerical workers at colleges and universities, a previously unorganized group of people. Contracts have already been signed at Barnard, Fisk, Columbia University, Teachers' College, and Hampton. Active campaigns are now working towards union elections at M.I.T., Harvard, Harvard Medical School, University of Chicago, Rice, Dartmouth, Brown, Princeton, Syracuse, and other schools.
If we vote to unionize with District 65 we will be part of a growing group of clerical workers at colleges and universities who have decided that they need to unionize in order to improve their working situations. Raising the standards for wages, benefits and general working conditions at some schools will make it easier to raise them at others. If Barnard can have a good contract, then so can Hampshire. And if Hampshire can, then so can other colleges in the area. We feel that the union we are working with is a good union that has a history of caring for its members and working for them, a union that is democratic in its policies and decisions, and that ensures our local autonomy. (p.5)
November 11, 1974
To: Office and Clerical Employees
From: Robert C. Birney
I had copies of the District 65 Constitution placed on reserve in the Library in the hope that you will take time between now and November 15 to read this document. Listening to the arguments for unionization here at Hampshire, I find it very difficult to believe that many of our employees have a clear picture of District 65.
The first (objective) of a union is to survive. The District 65 Constitution clearly reflects that fact. It contains a set of rules under which you would have to abide by for as long as it was your bargaining agent. It states the union's idea of the best circumstances for its well-being. District 65 will bargain for the following:
* A clause that would require Hampshire College to fire any employee designated by the union as "delinquent in payment of union dues, or (who) has failed within the time prescribed by the union to make proper application and pay the required initiation fee..."
* A clause which would require the College to deduct all "...amounts including initiation fees and assessments," including dues from your salary before you ever see your money.
You can see for yourself that the promise of freedom to dissent from union activity and policy is greatly hedged by union control over your money.
There are more clauses which emphasize the use of of right to tax a member's pocketbook in order to maintain "discipline." Consider the following:
--Part IV, Article C, Section 3 (c) states that every member is required to "...participate on picket lines, demonstrations, or other such action in defense of the membership." This language is vague. For example:
* Does defense mean campaigning elsewhere?
* What does the phrase "other acts" mean?
* What happens to the many people who would not want to participate in a strike or who want no part of the type of action mentioned above?
The dedication to preserving the union gets clearer, and more grim, when one reads the section which provides for charges, trial, conviction and punishment within the union for crimes against the union. Believe it or not, District 65 defines a crime as "...acting in a manner detrimental to the welfare of the union and/or its membership." Discretion is so broad as to cover anything someone in the hierarchy deems offensive.
And that is not all. Part VI, Section VII states the "any member...resorting to a court of law for redress before he or she has first exhausted all means within the Union for such redress shall stand expelled."
There is also broad discretionary power in District 65's range of penalties. If convicted, your punishment would be "such penalties as the best interests of the union may warrant." Again, the language is extremely vague.
But more fundamentally, why do you think District 65 needs this nonsense? Perhaps because the real power needed is the power to expel the troublemakers, which means that person's job!
Add it all up, and you have a constitution designed to preserve its power over the employees, not over the employer as some people wishfully think.
Hampshire staff pride themselves on their independence of mind and self-determination. Please read District 65's constitution. See if it describes an organization designed to serve your personal needs.
November 11, 1974
An Open Letter to Workers at Hampshire College
A relatively small number of us have been enthusiastic proponents of becoming a union, while many have been silent or uncommitted to either side.
We find too simplistic the descriptions of financial benefits arising from union membership. Even the union admits it cannot guarantee pay raises. They are subject to negotiation. A case in point is the current contract between District 65 and Barnard College. If the demands (a union term) proposed by District 65 to Barnard, and the resulting contract, are accurate as printed, the most beneficial clauses had been instituted by that college before unionization, and were not the result of effort by the union.
If one adds up the costs of union membership (initiation fee, dues, possible assessments and probably fines) the financial pluses seem less than magnificent. Especially when we see that the wage increases negotiated by the union for its Barnard members as of July 1, 1974, were less than the wage increases given by Hampshire to all employees making $10,000 or less.
We simply have not seen any proof of substantial enough benefit to warrant our wanting to be unionized.
Another reason for our lack of enthusiasm for having an outside union represent us on the Hampshire campus is the coercive power which a union writes into its constitution and uses upon its members. Its reasons are natural enough, but we resent their implications. We do not want to have to attend monthly meetings or pay a fine stated by District 65's representative, Mr. Peter van Delft, to be $5.00. It's probably an effective way to compel attendance, and it may help the union's treasury, but we don't like that kind of coercion.
Another aspect which troubles us is an individual's position should a strike be voted by a simple majority. The alternatives are few: give it tacit support, earn the hostility of others by working and thus be subjected to fines or other penalties or, the "best" course according to Mr. van Delft, just stay home. We do not want to do any of these things.
We work at Hampshire College because we want to. We like the people we are working with, most of the time anyway. Working conditions, generally speaking, are pleasant. The pay could be higher. True, the administration at times is inept in its management of employee relations. In its own best interest, we hope it is listening hard to the sounds on both sides of the union question.
A most disturbing element of outside unionization, to us, is the possibility of polarization, of having an adversary situation permanently maintained. Mr. van Delft has stated that it would be an adversary situation. We don't feel that would be very good for the college. Nor would it be very good for us.
While we are certain unions are very valuable to represent employees in large corporations such as General Motors, or even in smaller organizations employing only several hundred clerical personnel, we see no need to have a third party from New York to represent us at Hampshire College. It will not "give dignity" to people who work here. That cannot be given. It will not guarantee courteous treatment by anyone. It cannot assure us of more money.
We cannot find enough advantage to us to offset the real disadvantages of having unionization come to Hampshire College.
Finally, we hope every person concerned will listen closely--and think hard--about what her or his best interests truly are.
Sheila Moos, Sue Garner, Mary Costello, Diane Rahrig,
Dot Recos, Carolyn Rodgers, Betty Hunter, Carol Mehr,
Jarvis McCarther, Myra Brown, Ella Anderson, Paul Austin,
Barbary Leary, Peggy Brooks, Pamela Dickinson, Ann Antonellis,
Kathy Methot, Janet Kellogg, Doris Allen, Jane Pemberton
November 12, 1974
To: Hampshire Staff
From: Ron Bickel, Mimi Katz, Tom Hart, Jim Davidson, Sandy Lillydahl, Diane Damelio, Carol Boardway, Debbie Cole, Janet Summers, etc.
Subject: Memo from Mr. Birney dated November 11, 1974
Mr. Birney would like us to perceive of the union as some outside agent forcing its policies upon an unsuspecting group of staff people, whereas quite the opposite is true. We invited District 65 here to help coordinate efforts to unionize.
As far as the District 65 Constitution is concerned, we also urge you to review its contents. Do not accept the statements (taken out of context) in Mr. Birney's recent memo. We ask you to pay particular attention to the sections dealing with Rights of Workers. Here you will find,
1,b, Every member has the right to vote an all terms of union contracts affecting him or her.
1,c, Every member has the right to vote on all strike calls and strike settlements affecting him or her.
2,d, Every member has the right to make recommendations and proposals, or to make criticism of any phase of union activity, the activities of union officers or committees.
So, according to the 65 Constitution, we, the members of the union, would determine what "clauses" or terms would be in our contract. The union has no right to insert clauses without our approval.
Also, according to the 65 Constitution, its first objective is, "To unite into this industrial union all workers within our jurisdiction." What Mr. Birney failed to point out to you is some of the very clearly stated objectives which follow that statement,
* To establish adequate wage standards.
* To shorten the hours of labor and improve working conditions.
* To aid in the adoption of laws for the economic, political, social welfare of all workers.
* To protect and extend our democratic institutions, our civil rights, our liberties and the security of our nation.
Mr. Birney points out in a closing paragraph, "Add it all up, and you have a constitution designed to preserve its power over the employees, not over the employer as some people wishfully think."
We respectfully refer you to Article 2, section 2 of the By Laws of the Trustees of Hampshire College, these read,
"The Board of Trustees shall have all of the powers of directors and shall have general supervision and control over the property and affairs of the corporation;...and shall appoint all other officers of instruction and administration in Hampshire College and determine their duties and responsibilities, their tenure, their conditions of employment and their remuneration; shall make and may from time to time change rules and regulations to ensure the good government of Hampshire College, including procedures for enforcement and penalties for violation; shall fix all tuition and other fees and charges; and shall confer all honors and degrees." (emphasis added)
We respectfully ask where are our rights defined in the By Laws or in the Hampshire Constitution? We have no representation on the Trustees of Hampshire College. Every other group on campus does have this representation. We ask you to read not only the District 65 Constitution but also the Hampshire By Laws and the Hampshire Constitution. Decide for yourself which of these documents clearly defines your rights and which organization is really trying to preserve its power over the employees.
From The Staff Reunion, Nov. 26, 1974
On November 15 the Hampshire College clerical staff, by a vote of 29 to 33, decided against forming a local of District 65 of the Distributive Workers of America. There were 7 additional votes cast which have been challenged, but these votes are not expected to change the outcome of the election. The union supporters have conceded the election and will not contest its outcome despite feelings that the anti-union campaign conducted by the college misrepresented facts about the nature of collective bargaining, unionization, and District 65.
Pro-union staff members feel that the vote is not indicative of support for the college's present personnel policies, but reflects a distrust and confusion about unions on the part of many staff members at Hampshire. They believe that this attitude was fostered by the college's campaign of misstatement, innuendo, and emphasis on the possible consequences of a strike.
Under Federal Labor Law, another election cannot be held at Hampshire for at least one year. During this time, staff members who still feel the need of union representation will attempt to clarify the issues surrounding unionization and promote discussion of staff working conditions at Hampshire. (p.1)