Deputy Editor/ News Editor
On September 30, 2022 students and faculty of Whittier College and the Claremont Colleges came together for one cause– to support the negotiations of the Bon Appetit worker’s unionization contract. The employees are unionized under the UNITE HERE Local 11 chapter. The community crowded the back rooms of the Campus Inn to express their wishes for better treatment of the workers.
Bon Appetit workers have been asking for a meeting of contract negotiations for a while now, but have not been able to receive it. Due to the radio silence from the Bon Appetit Management Company in regards to the contracts, the community has had enough. Workers of both the Campus Inn and the Spot have asked the community to rally behind them to show how much they want better treatment and fair pay. They are asking students and the Whittier College community to rally with them during this time. If you would like to learn more about the efforts made in order to create the rally, you can read it in the Quaker Campus article “Bon Appetit Workers Push to Unionize”.
The crowd expressed their concerns to General Manager Lucille Alvarez. Alvarez, a self-described messenger, brings the concerns expressed by the community to Bon Appetit Management Company. The workers begin the meeting by saying how this crowd has come together peacefully today because they “have been disrespected”. However, one employee states, “if we don’t get what we are asking for in a respectful manner… this will be larger and larger.” The crowd fervently agreed, snapping and clapping in support.
Many workers conveyed the disrespect they have experienced from the management company at the meeting as well. Multiple workers spoke directly to Alvarez stating similar issues of how they work everyday, and should “get what they deserve.” The collective wish of all the Bon Appetit workers is better pay because of the world we live in. Bon Appetit employee of six years, Hugo Talavera expresses the concern of not being able to live off the wages given. “The company should give us what we deserve.” Talavera speaks about how inflation is growing more and more, continuing on with how expensive gas has gotten recently; “Gas is no longer three dollars… Now it’s seven dollars, and I am still making 16 dollars.”
The College community has grown weary of waiting for a meeting date for negotiations. Multiple workers expressed how they asked nicely about the date; they have worked hard, and yet still have nothing. One worker expressed how this is “not about Lucy, but about the company.” “That is all we want, at least a date”, continues this worker, “where we can at least negotiate what we want. And they haven’t given us that. And I feel a little disrespected in that sense.” Many employees and students view the workplace as a family, but specifically what a family needs, the workers are asking for the respect and the dignity they deserve.
Alongside the workers who spoke at the rally, many students came up to express their support for the negotiations. Third-year Fernando Ramirez spoke about the fair treatment in the negotiations that will benefit the workers, expressing that it is because they “deserve it!”. “From a student perspective…We are the people who benefit from the great, amazing work that all [the] wonderful workers do for us. We deserve to be heard, and to give back to [the] workers.” Ramirez continues this, stating that “they work tirelessly, and they don’t get the resources and rights that they should! We, as a college, strive to find better and more helpful situations for all those that need it.” He says that this is a perfect example, and this can be shown to Bon Appetit that [Lucy] is in alignment with their values in a school. Ramirez concludes that this issue will not go unheard, and that the student body is “here to support.”
Another student that is active in the unionization process of the Bon Appetit workers is Third-year Arlo Tinsman-Kongshaung. He expresses that “Whittier College does not run without the men and women right here”; the disrespect they face is inexcusable. Tinsman-Kongshuang also expresses that this unfair treatment is not just here at Whittier, but all across the country. He acknowledges that many students from the Claremont Colleges are there at the rally to support the Whittier community. “The Claremont Colleges also work with Bon Appetit in the same union, and we are all having the same problems. This is not just a Whittier issue. This is not just a Claremont issue. Universities [and workers] across the country are facing these issues.” Tinsman-Kongshuang continues on by saying that the employees should be “getting what they need, so that they don’t have to work twelve [to sixteen] hour shifts. So they don’t have to work six days a week, so they do not have to have another job, with a job that is [supposed] to be a full time job. [This job] is described as a full-time job.” The small school atmosphere of Whittier allows for close connections to be made with both staff and students, and that the “community does not function without [the workers]. [The workers] should not have to choose between picking their kids up from school, and making the money they need to pay rent.” He continues by saying how the core of the College would not thrive without the help of the CI and the Spot workers.
Students were not the only part of the Whittier community at the rally. Numerous professors showed up for the cause. In particular Professor Becky Overmyer-Velázquez spoke in front of the crowd, expressing her frustrations with the lack of negotiations. She says she is in total support of “her brothers and sisters working in this facility” and of the effort of the Whittier community to come together for a worthy cause. She continues by saying she “suggests that the administration of this College has a responsibility for the services they provide”, and suggests that students should be “writing letters and emails to the President’s office everyday [in order to] put pressure on the administration [and] Bon Appetit to come to the table.” Overmyer-Velázquez says she will bring along more faculty to support the cause.
General Manager Lucy Alvarez closed out the rally, thanking everyone who came to support. “We want peace,” Alvarez states. She clarifies that she still does not know the date of the negotiations meeting, and that she is just a messenger. Alvarez does insist, however, that she is trying all she can to force the Bon Appetit Management Company to schedule said meeting. She continues on about how she supports everyone who came out here to voice their opinions; “That’s what it’s about, right? It’s about speaking.” But until then, the Whittier College community will not quit.
As the congregation came out of the backroom of the Campus Inn, yelling a chant of “We will be back!”, a student named Aidan Moore asked the crowd to leave their email in order to create a network of students for unionization. Moore, along with other students, states that he is “trying to get a permanent organization to support the workers off the ground at the moment.” While nothing has happened quite yet, they are “hoping to really start getting work done in the next few days.” Moore is planning on making social media for the organization (they do have an Instagram account called @whittier_swa); getting a club registered; and starting to cooperate with other organizations on campus. One of their main supporters in the club MECHA, for example. Just as the crowd was about to disperse for the day, a lone voice was heard from across the way, near the Spot. “¡Sí se puede!”, said an employee from across the way. Yes, we can! Yes we can, indeed.
Photo Courtesy of Abigail Padilla