June 4, 2013

SOUL seeks guaranteed jobs

Despite Executive Director of Campus Dining Richard Mason’s assurances that the majority of Pierce dining staff would be relocated to Bartlett and Cathey Dining Commons next year, students involved with Students Organizing United with Labor (SOUL) have expressed skepticism about the fate of the workers. Mason met with the students in response to a letter they delivered to his office on May 21.

According to Mason, UChicago Dining expects current Pierce workers, who are employed by Aramark, the food provider for the dining halls, to remain at the University. He partly attributed this to the additional workers needed at Bartlett and Cathey next year when those commons begin to accommodate more students after the demolition of Pierce Tower.

“Between those additions and the natural attrition of dining staff that occurs every year, we do not anticipate any layoffs resulting from the closure of Pierce,” he said in a written response to the letter from SOUL.

However, because the workers’ contract is between Aramark and Teamsters Local 743, Pierce dining staff’s union representative, Mason is not able to guarantee each current Pierce worker a job next year.

According to second-year SOUL organizer Miriam Shestack, Mason’s response was not sufficient to settle their concerns. She said the group worries about a higher risk of worker attrition with the closing of Pierce.

“We believe that giving workers certainty about their jobs next year by promising that everyone who returns will be rehired is worth more than protecting Aramark from the truly minimal risk of having to potentially hire a few more people than they ideally would have by allowing them to keep the door open for layoffs until the very last minute,” she said in an e-mail to the Maroon.

SOUL’s letter asked the University to pressure Aramark to meet with representatives of the union to negotiate the future of Pierce dining staff. Aramark was scheduled to meet with Donnie von Moore, president of the Teamsters Local 743, yesterday. Aramark Associate Vice President Trevor Ferguson wrote in a letter to Mason that the meeting would be held in order to “discuss any miscommunication that occurred and our path forward.”

SOUL has received confirmation from the Office of Undergraduate Student Housing that all Pierce residential services and facilities services employees will be retained and moved to different work locations next year. In addition, all permanent staff, including the custodial staff subcontracted with housekeeping contractors DFS and ABM have received confirmation of their future employment with the University.