The following is a Wespeak addressing BA’s policies. It will be published in tomorrow’s issue of the Argus.
By Lizzie Busch and Jessie Spector, on behalf of USLAC
We appreciate the attention BA and the administration have paid to students’ concerns, and we thank them for answering to those concerns in meetings with the WSA and through the Dining Services Frequently Asked Questions on the Wesleyan website. However, we disagree with some of the assertions that have been made.
“Bon Appetit pays fair wages and benefits to its workers, so its labor costs are high.” (Dining Frequently Asked Questions on the Wesleyan website in answer to why prices are high.)
Because of the contract that the union has fought for over 25 years, workers are paid 18.75 an hour. This may sound like a lot, but food service employees at Wesleyan work only eight months of the year. It breaks down to not a whole lot more than other food service positions. Bon Appetit Management Company (BA) is also owned by the Compass Group, one of the largest food service providers in the world. Last year, Compass made $19.5 billion in revenue. To ask students to choose between lowered prices and fair wages makes it seem as if these are the only options.
“We believe that the frustration workers have experienced with the
transition to new working conditions are significant, but we expect they will prove temporary.” (Dining FAQ)
While the transition to new working conditions may very well improve with time, direct violations of the contract are not just kinks to be worked out. Recently, BA posted a new schedule without first talking to the union stewards. Workers have been unable to negotiate their hours, and now some have schedules they did not bid for. BA’s history with campus unions is also worrisome. Soon after BA took over food service at Oberlin College in 2001, a worker there with strong ties to the union was continually harassed by BA management and then fired on vague disciplinary charges with no founding evidence. At Washington University, threats from BA managers and administration caused a union vote to fail by one vote. This was brought before the National Labor Relations Board and deemed unlawful union-busting. Because of this history, February’s contract negotiations between BA and the food service workers are worrisome.
“We spent 30,000 dollars in overtime last week.” (Delmar Crim, the Argus, September 25th)
That BA paid $30,000 in overtime in one week does not indicate that workers are being overpaid. Instead, it shows that facilities are understaffed and disorganized. Employees have said they’ve had to work longer hours to finish work that simply requires more people. Instead of doing the work they are supposed to, employees have also had to take time to look for things in a new and chaotic workplace.
Food service workers want to work the hours that have been cut from their positions, and facilities would run better if they could work those hours with regular pay and a sufficiently staffed workplace.
“BA made good on its pledge to the Wesleyan community to make fulltime jobs with benefits available to all Aramark’s fulltime, benefits-eligible employees.” (Dining FAQ)
More workers are needed on this campus because food production under BA is more labor intensive. However, in hiring new workers, Bon Appetit has violated the contract. Article 12.9 says that returning workers must be allowed to increase their hours to a forty-hour workweek with benefits before any new hires are brought in. This is why taking 4 hours from Sandy Baik—putting her below benefit level—and giving them to a new hire is a violation. Under pressure from the union, BA has given Sandy back her hours. But her case is not the only one in which BA has hired new workers instead of offering more hours to current employees. The necessary new hires can be made while still following union protocol.
“Giving custodial workers’ discounts on food will open a ‘Pandora’s box.’” (Delmar Crim, WSA forum.)
Aramark gave all custodial workers a discount on food at the campus center. Forty people do custodial work at Wesleyan. The food at Usdan is priced for students with meal plans; lunch can cost up to fifteen dollars. Granting discounts to custodial workers will not open a “Pandora’s box” of discounts. Aramark was able to find the money to extend discounts. The custodial staff keeps this campus running, and they should be able to afford to eat here.
“[The sushi workers] simply have no use for unions in their culture.” (Delmar Crim,
the Argus, September 25)
Regardless of what Crim says about “culture”, the issue remains that, according to the contract, all food service workers on this campus must be part of the union. Even though sushi production is subcontracted to another company, it is necessary that these workers be unionized.