University News

Dining Services to press for improved pay and benefits in negotiations

Under new union representation, Brown Dining Services workers will seek increased staffing

Contributing Writer
Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Brown Dining Services workers may begin negotiating a new labor contract with the University this week after more than two months of delays, said Karen McAninch, business agent for the United Service and Allied Workers of Rhode Island.

BDS employees’ most recent contract expired October 2012, and administrators and workers have continued to abide by the expired contract’s terms over the past year, wrote Ann Hoffman, director of administration for Dining Services, in an email to The Herald.

BDS employees’ switch to new union representation has delayed negotiations over a new contract, administrators and union representatives said.

Dining Services workers voted last year to switch union representation from the Service Employees International Union Local 615 to the USAW because they believed USAW, a smaller, locally based union, would better advocate for their priorities, McAninch said.

The switch to the new union caused a holdup in the commencement of new contract negotiations because of a series of elections to select BDS workers’ representatives in the USAW, McAninch said.

The recent federal government shutdown further delayed contract negotiations by slowing down the certification process by which USAW received approval from federal regulators to represent Dining Services workers, McAninch said.

Union leaders also chose to postpone negotiating with the University out of respect for Manuel Gomes, a Dining Services employee who died last month, McAninch added.

“The game plan is to get going as soon as possible,” McAninch said, adding that she hopes negotiations will begin this week. “Most contract negotiations are usually completed within a month, but this might take longer because we are a new union, and the list of issues people have brought to my attention is relatively long.”

Staff members will seek to advocate for higher wages and having more employees assigned to certain shifts to ease understaffing issues, union leaders and student activists said.

The Student Labor Alliance started an online petition last month advocating for Dining Services workers’ labor concerns to be addressed, wrote Beilul Naizghi ’16, a SLA member, in an email to The Herald.

The petition calls for “a fair contract with a living wage, good health benefits and an end to understaffing” and has received about 750 signatures, said Chance Dunbar ’17, a SLA member.

Dining Services workers “are trying to mobilize more support and are ready to be more vocal about these issues,” Dunbar said.

SLA members will complement the petition by creating a collection of photos and written stories about Dining Services workers, Dunbar said. Activists also plan on submitting their petition to University administrators to demonstrate “solidarity” with staff members during the negotiations, he added.

Union organizers and student activists highlighted wages as a top priority for the negotiations.

Dining Services food service workers who have worked fewer than 2 years are currently paid $12.52 per hour, McAninch said, adding that all workers last received wage increases in October 2011. Though union negotiators will advocate for a higher wage, they have not yet set a specific target for a wage increase at this point, she said.

Union negotiators will also try to persuade the University to address employees’ concerns about the number of days worked yearly, McAninch said. Most Dining Services workers currently do not work full-time year-round due to winter and summer breaks, she added.

“We hope to increase the number of folks working 52 weeks a year” by persuading the University to hire more employees to assist with summer activities that require Dining Services assistance, McAninch said. Events that occur when students are not on campus often are understaffed, she said.

Union negotiators will also seek to increase health and pension benefits for BDS workers, McAninch said.

Beppie Huidekoper, executive vice president for finance and administration, declined to comment on the negotiations while they are underway.


A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Dining Services staff members who have worked fewer than 15 years are paid $12.52 per hour and that those who have worked more than 15 years are paid $17.61 per hour. In fact, this starting rate is only paid to food service workers and is in effect for the first two years of employment. The Herald regrets the error.

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