Students Stand in Solidarity With the Bates Educators & Staff Organization


Najá Crockett/The Bates Student

The chalk outside of Commons is just one of numerous places that messages of support for BESO can be found around campus.

The following letter was written by Friends of the Bates Educators & Staff Organization. Contributors to this letter include Wilder Geier ’22, Tasha Kaluzynski ’22, Lily Ritch ’25, Quinn Kieselowsky ’23, Stephanie Dominguez ’24, Conor McCoy ’22, Amina Mohammed ’22, Jakob Adler ’24, Gianluca Yornet de Rosas ’24, Serena Sen ’23, Eliza Dewey ’24, Adam Naddaff Slocum ’22, Sean Vaz ’22, Cici Conroy ’23, and Aru Poleo Vargas ’24.

Dear Bates students, educators, staff and alumni,

Over the weekend, Bates adjunct faculty and staff announced their effort to form a union, the Bates Educators & Staff Organization (BESO), in order to democratically and collectively negotiate with the Bates administration to determine their wages, benefits, hours and working conditions. 

Legally, forming a union involves two steps: signing union authorization cards and a following election. Adjuncts reached a majority of support, and staff members are joining them; there is broad promotion among employees for forming a collective voice. The next step is a vote by and for Bates workers. If a majority of workers vote yes — in favor of unionizing — then their union is formed! The Bates administration and workers will then bargain in good faith for a contract that includes workers’ needs, priorities and values.

Students must stand with our educators and staff who are organizing for a collective voice, to advance and protect the college. These workers ARE the college; when they are undervalued and exploited — as they have been for too long — our institution suffers. Over the past year, too many workers have left due to dissatisfaction, low pay and poor working conditions at Bates, and students have felt the sting of that in the OIE, in academics, in athletics and in many other spaces. Quality living and learning conditions for students are dependent on employees’ well-being. It is thanks to the hard work of educators and staff that students, and the college, flourish. None of us can succeed in isolation.

Workers are coming together to ensure that Bates honors its commitment to our community values. The BESO wrote in its mission statement, “This past year it has become apparent that Bates cannot advance—nor realize—its stated diversity, equity, and inclusion goals unless we all have a real seat at the table. By forming our union, we pledge to demand real accountability from ourselves and the College to enact equity and justice in our collective bargaining agreements, our workplace, and our community.”

When educators and staff are strong, they can better support the most vulnerable and marginalized members of the community, including students. Workers and educators of color as well as LGBTQ+ and disabled workers face deep institutional barriers and hostility. As students, we must embrace the capacity of collective bargaining to generate a safe, respectful environment that pursues equity and liberation for workers and students alike. With the right to collectively bargain, workers can enact justice, not just hear about it.

Bates workers have sought a collective voice for a long time and have faced pushback from the college before. When Bates dining workers tried to form a union in 1999, they were met by an intense and expensive anti-union campaign from the administration. Bates hired an outside law firm to persuade workers against coming together.

Today, workers in some of the most vulnerable, lowest-paid positions have already reported facing increased workplace surveillance and an atmosphere of fear brought about by the administration. Petitions from alumni, community members and the faculty have already called upon the college to commit to neutrality and to refrain from further attempts to influence employees’ choices. We echo their call for neutrality: Workers have the right to talk to each other about forming their union.

While workers desperately need our support, some students have begun to decry their effort by claiming that workers having a collective voice will increase tuition and harm students. Luckily, our college has the resources to both make itself accessible to all students and ensure that its workers have the tools to do their jobs, make livable wages and be able to support us students; it is up to the administration to make the choice to prioritize each of these essential aspects of our community. Workers are not only organizing for livable wages and having their needs met, but also to gain respect, dignity and inclusion at work.

Let’s band together as students and show our love and respect for the people who are the heart of Bates College by standing with them in their efforts to unionize. In the coming days and weeks, there will be a number of ways to show solidarity with our educators and staff beyond the posters in our windows. Stay posted and get excited to participate in actions and demonstrations to support the workers who make Bates the place we all know and love! We’ll need to stand beside them to ensure they are heard, protected and encouraged. We are so thrilled to take part in this historic moment at Bates with all of you!

With love and solidarity,

Friends of the Bates Educators and Staff Organization