Bon Appétit employees who work at Hillel’s Falk Dining Commons are now officially represented by the Teamsters Local 929.
Friday morning, workers met with Teamsters and company representatives as they verified that a majority were in favor of joining the union.
“The employees are now represented by the Teamsters Local 929,” announced Secretary-Treasurer John Preston.
“It was a little nail-biting,” said Troy Harris, a cook who has worked at Hillel for 13 years, while sitting down at Saxby’s for a celebratory brunch with union representatives and student activists.
But, he added, “I feel like we’ve come home with the championship.”
“It’s just amazing, the power that we have,” said Kareem Wallace, a cook at Hillel and team leader of the workers’ campaign, who was also appointed shop steward for the union. “It gives us like a backbone.”
Harris, who was appointed assistant shop steward, added that the new function gives him “a title that’s really recognized” – perhaps more so than cook. A shop steward is an “on-sight union representative,” Preston explained.
Company representatives verified the authenticity of the employees’ authorization cards one by one, and at the count of nine – the proof of majority rule – they stopped, according to Harris.
The meeting lasted less than an hour.
“The company is very familiar with unions,” Preston said.
Last week, the Teamsters announced that Bon Appétit would not require a closed-ballot vote from the workers before recognizing their request for union representation. The employees had filed a petition to unionize with the National Labor Relations Board in mid-April.
Bon Appétit representatives have offered to begin negotiations at the end of May, according to Preston.
“Our goal is to have a contract in place before the employees come back in August,” he said.
It has been exactly a month since a coalition of student activists – the Penn Student Labor Action Project – and dining hall workers came out publicly to demand better wages and benefits for Bon Appétit employees at Penn.
“We have so much power,” said College junior and SLAP member Penny Jennewein, adding she is very enthusiastic about the progress made by the “amazing student-worker alliance.”
However, she added, the campaign is not over yet. “We’re going to be fighting until they get a contract.”
Bon Appétit declined to comment on the meeting or any ongoing negotiations.