The Bon Appétit workers have been given a tentative date for negotiation of their rights, November 15, 2022. But prior to this, a message was sent to the workers of the Campus Inn from their Union Representative, Natasha Wong, stating that either the management company Bon Appétit or the College itself is not allowing for the workers to negotiate for better wages, and working conditions. Because of this, on Friday November 4th, a small group of worker and student representatives went to the Human Resources office in order to address their concerns.
The workers of the Campus Inn have been asking for re-negotiations of their worker’s contract for a while now. Once the worker’s were given the date, they felt they were finally on track to see the results they wanted. But all of that came to a crashing halt when a message was sent to the staff of the Campus Inn informing them that they are being shunned from negotiating. The Bon Appetit Management Company Regional Vice President Michael Venckus states that “Negotiations with UNITE HERE Local 11 are scheduled for November 15th. Bon Appétit has reserved a conference room near the school that accommodates the number of representatives requested by Local 11. Bon Appétit respects workers’ right to unionize and has a good relationship with Local 11. Bon Appétit’s employees are our most important asset, and we look forward to sitting down with them and Local 11 to reach an agreement that is positive for everyone.”
The Campus Inn workers feel hurt by the struggle with their negotiations. Long-time employee Luis Martinez states that he and his colleagues feel “really sad and insulted with the College if [what the email implies] is true… [We want] dignity and respect from our job.” Similar sentiments were said of long-time employee Daisy Machado, stating that “it feels sad, and it makes me feel like we don’t get what we are asking for. It’s not right.”
With the message, workers at the College have had enough. So, a small group walked to the Human Resources office with Director of Human Resources & Organizational Development Maritza Magallanes to have a talk and address their concerns. Martinez starts the meeting by stating how they had gotten the message, and how they feel disrespected by their place of work because of the content. “We would like support from the College… I mean, we are here everyday. We work five days, six days, seven days, even ten days. 12 hours sometimes. So, I mean, we see the students; we see you guys…” The workers speak of not knowing exactly who sent the message, but the firm pain in their heart in regards to the idea that somebody does not want them to negotiate. The group then speaks about how they have a set date of November 15th for negotiations, and that they usually do it “in the green room of the Shannon Center.” But this time, both Bon Appétit and the College have not given the workers a location that is feasible for them to go to. “They want to send us to… Garden Grove.” says Martinez. “We cannot go there… it’s just [too much].” Magallanes understands these concerns and agrees to contact Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer, Cynthia Joseph. Joseph states in an email that she is “not sure where the message came from, but as Whitter College employees, we cannot stop Bon Appetit workers from negotiating, nor would we ever try to. Negotiating their contract is their right.”
Before the meeting had ended, Sesha Hernadez-Real, a representative from the organization M.E.Ch.A spoke about the injustices that the workers are facing, and how the club is willing to help. M.E.Ch.A can reserve a table (for example, in Villalobos) for the negotiations, in case anything falls through. Real continues by saying that, “[w]e also just want to say we are here to support the workers obviously. It has been really sad to see what they have been going through and the fact that they had to reach out to students in order to get support or feel like they have been seen. It’s just… really disheartening considering everything that they do. And we just want to show that we are here and we are listening and we are doing everything that we can to support them.”
M.E.Ch.A is a massive supporter of the negotiations. Co-Chairmans Galilea Landa-Posas and Natalia Arevalo gave a statement in response to the events occurring. “The issue occurring in the Campus Inn with the workers is an issue of human rights. As an institution we have the power to make sure people’s livelihood is not threatened. CI workers are struggling for livable wages. Many of the workers have a second job because simply working at the CI at Whittier College is not sustainable. Many are working twelve hour shifts and even then they are not earning enough. As an institution that values community involvement, diversity, and civic engagement we must stand by our workers.
M.E.Ch.A. stands for Moviemento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlan, “student movement” is in our name. As a student organization, we are politically involved on campus and in the community. This is not solely a political issue, but this issue is also culturally relevant. Many of the staff members identify as Latinx or Mexican and remind us of our families. They could be our parents, tias or tios. It is not a coincidence that this historically marginalized community is once again needing to fight for their rights. Previously, when Whittier College Bon Appétit workers were involved in negotiations, M.E.Ch.A. was involved. Once again we have been meeting with the workers and offering our support everywhere we can. Many students on campus are behind this movement too, as was demonstrated by the attendance of students at the CI last month. We will continue to support and stand alongside the workers in their lucha for fair wages. We are in this fight together. Our member Sesha Hernandez-Real has been a key player in meeting with the workers and creating this coalition between them and students. We are hopeful that their upcoming negotiations with Bon Appétit and their union representative will have a positive outcome, but we also urge Whittier College to take a position and speak in support of the workers. Whittier College is run by students. This institution must reflect our values because without us there would not be a school. It is also important to realize that this is not an isolated issue for Whittier College. The housekeeping workers and facilities workers are facing a similar struggle. This is a question of how we, as a college and an institution, are treating our workers. We cannot hide behind the third-party vendors that directly hire these workers and say, “it is not our issue”. It is. In our world today, these workers are a vital part of the institution and keep it running. They are just as important as any pro-staff member. Our students have interacted and come to know the workers that help us with our daily needs. They feed us, keep our spaces clean, and maintain the beauty of our campus. Students have connected and know the staff at the CI and around campus more than they have interacted with our very own president. Ask a random student the name of the lady that scans their card at the CI is and most will be able to answer: Daisy. Ask them who the President of the college is, and not everyone will be able to answer. We urge Whittier College to stand for fair wages and basic human rights. We must support our workers.”
Many of the workers at the meeting also expressed their concerns of retaliation towards the management of the Campus Inn by Bon Appétit and the College. As stated in section seven of the National Labor Relations Act: “Employees shall have the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection…”. Section eight continues this notion by saying that it “makes it an unfair labor practice for an employer ‘to interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed in Section 7’”. Some examples of this include: “Threaten[ing] employees with adverse consequences, such as closing the workplace, loss of benefits, or more onerous working conditions, if they support a union, engage in union activity, or select a union to represent them” or “ employees with adverse consequences if they engage in protected, concerted activity.”
The workers of the Campus Inn are asking Whittier College and the College community for support during these times. The Quaker Campus supports the worker’s in their effort, as expressed in our full statement from the Editorial Board.
Photo Courtesy of Business Wire.
Disclaimer: This article was edited on Nov. 12, 2022, to include information that from Cynthia Joseph at a later time.