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Custodians Fired by St. Michael's College Fight Back

Students, alumni, labor rights groups and even politicians gathered at the steps of the St. Michael's College chapel to support two workers who they said were wrongfully terminated.
COLCHESTER, Vt. - Students, alumni, labor rights groups and even politicians gathered at the steps of the St. Michael's College chapel to support two workers who they said were wrongfully terminated.

Tom Kingston and Dannis Hackney were custodians at St. Michael's for 15 and 9 years, respectively.

They were outspoken leaders in a successful campaign to form a union last year. They were trying to negotiate their very first union contract when they say they were wrongfully fired.

"I believe the only reason I was fired was because of my involvement in the union," said Kingston.

One faculty member, Bill Grover, said since word's gotten around about the fired custodians, he's been flooded with calls from concerned alumni.

"Just talking about how much they love the school and how much the school has meant to them," he said. "And how disappointed they are at what their perceive to be the gap between what the college professes in terms of social justice and what has actually happened in this particular case."

Students are also fighting back--like the Student Labor Action Movement.

"We have brought the complaints of custodians to the attention of the administration," said Kirsten Wilson, a student and member of S.L.A.M. "Instead of being met with utmost concern, we were instead met with denial."

Kingston says he still wants to work for St. Michael's because of student support.

"Sometimes cleaning toilets and dorms seems worth it when we can get appreciation from the students," he said.

The president of St. Michael's, John Neuhauser, did not come to hear the protestors. But they marched to his office and dropped off a petition.

Buff Lindau, the Communications Director for the college, did respond to the accusations of wrongful termination.

"All personnel matters are confidential," Lindau said. "But the college would not terminate the employment of a person for union activities."

Kingston says the reason he was given for the firing was poor performance.

He says he was taking accounting classes part-time--but without his employee tuition discount, is no longer enrolled.

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