|From left, IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger, Kenyon College President Sean Decatur and United Electrical President Bruce Klipple sign the Middle Path Partnership Agreement in August 2013. Many employees also signed their names to the partnership.|
Two years ago, administrators at Kenyon College in Gambier, OH were considering outsourcing custodial, electric and plumbing work done by some 80 members of IAM Local 2794 and United Electrical Local 712.
Now nine months after all sides agreed to a non-traditional labor-management cooperative known as the Middle Path Partnership, union and university officials are praising the agreement for saving jobs and increasing efficiency. The agreement came to pass after the workers’ 2012 anti-outsourcing picketing campaign drew support from university students, professors and alumni.
“The fact that we went from a discussion of outsourcing, to adding a position in the trades, it’s really been a 180-degree turn in terms of how we thought about operating within that department,” said Mark Kohlman, chief business officer at Kenyon College, at a recent National Employment Law Project conference. “I’m encouraged about the relationship the college has with its employees, the relationship that we have now with both unions, and I’m really excited about keeping this going and moving it forward.”
The agreement was formed with the support and training provided by IAM High Performance Work Organization (HPWO) Partnerships Department and organizes workers into job classification-based Natural Work Groups (NWG) that meet monthly to identify problems and forge solutions. The Middle Path Partnership Team, made up of union leaders and university management, provides oversight for NWGs and monitors the long-term goals of the agreement.
The IAM’s HPWO Partnership Department supports many such agreements and labor-management partnerships across North America, but this was the first such agreement between the IAM and a college or university.
“This was a great example of labor and management putting aside their differences to work toward a common goal,” said IAM Grand Lodge Representative Jim Reid, who works in the HPWO Partnerships Department at the Grand Lodge and helped train Kenyon College management and employees. “That’s the basis of forming a partnership and building on the things we have in common.
Click here to see the full text of the Middle Path Partnership Business Plan.