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Members of the Student Labor Action Project celebrate with Bon Appetit workers after the workers voted for union representation.

Credit: Courtesy of Student Labor Action Project

The Bon Appetit Management Company dining hall workers voted Monday morning to be represented by the Teamsters Local 929.

After a card check to make sure that a majority voted in favor of unionizing, the employees will now be represented by Teamsters, just as the Bon Appetit employees at Hillel’s Falk Dining Commons voted this spring.

“Teamsters are now recognized as the sole bargaining organization for all workers that work for [Bon Appetit at Penn],” Secretary Treasurer of Teamsters Local 929 John Preston said.

“The employees overwhelmingly decided they need a union to represent them with their jobs on campus with Bon Appetit. There’s power in numbers and they overwhelmingly requested for the Teamsters to represent them,” Preston said.

Students and workers have been working together since the beginning of the summer to accomplish this, according to Student Labor Action Project member and College senior Penny Jennewein.

“I think that this is an amazing victory for students and workers here,” Jennewein said. “This victory is one of the biggest challenges to Penn that’s been waged in a really long time.”

“SLAP was instrumental in gaining the momentum on campus,” Preston said. “It’s encouraging to me as a union representative to see enthusiasm like that from youth.”

Jennewein hopes that union representation could improve workers’ conditions, such as assisting with contract negotiations that could lead to higher pay and support in workplace disputes.

According to Preston, this vote was the first step towards setting up negotiations that will provide workers with better wages, benefits, pensions and job security. One of the major factors, according to Preston, was the need to negotiate job security as employees didn’t know if they would be returning to work in the fall until a few months prior.

“They’ll have an organized group that will represent them [and] has this backbone to help them out,” Jennewein said.

“I’m confident that we can gain a strong contract for retail employees on campus to better their lives and move forward — more respect on the job, protect, not being an at-will employee — it’s important,” Preston added.

“For me, as a student at Penn, I feel very strongly that Penn — which has so much influence in the city — should be a force for good,” Jennewein said. For her and the other members of SLAP, collaboration between workers and students is what could make Penn better as a university and as an employer.

“It builds the kind of university we would want to be a part of,” she said.

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