With the help of Local No. 929 Teamsters, Penn dining workers have negotiated a new contract with Bon Appétit.
“We were able to address the employees’ needs presented to us in their contract proposals,” Gerald Williams, vice president of Teamsters Local 929, said in an email.
The workers in Penn’s dining halls officially unionized with the Teamsters at the end of September with the help of the Student Labor Action Project. They have been working toward negotiating a deal with Bon Appétit since then.
“Penn SLAP has been working with dining workers… for a very long time and this really came out of the work that students have done with the workers,” College junior and SLAP member Penny Jennewein said. “This contract in particular is really a victory.”
The new contract offers workers benefits that they have never had before.
“It guarantees wage increases for three years, it guarantees them a pension contribution that will be available upon retirement,” Secretary Treasurer of the union John Preston said. In addition, “we negotiated [an affordable] healthcare package for the employees.”
Jennewein said that even the smallest wage increases could radically alter the living situations of dining hall workers.
“Any small cent increase is a material increase in [workers’] living situation,” she said.
Another major change is that the workers are no longer at-will employees, meaning they cannot be terminated without cause.
“Now that they have a contract, they can’t just be fired for anything,” Jennewein said. “That’s a sense of security that they [didn’t] have.”
The new contract also guarantees that health insurance costs will not build up over the summer when the campus dining halls are closed.
“In the past, employees had to pay insurance for the months they were laid off,” Preston said. “Now, we were able to negotiate a payment option of paying off your insurance while you are working.” This way, workers are not faced with debts every fall.
According to Williams, the union will now be working with the dining hall workers to ”educate the new members about being represented by a union.”
“There’s strength in numbers, with the union negotiating the contract for a group of employees,” Preston said. “It gives the employees more power to identify their needs and have the union negotiate the contract.”
Jennewein also feels that they have accomplished more than just negotiating a new contract.
“The relationship that we [built] with the workers — we really broke down some barriers and got to know these people that serve us food every day,” she said. “Just doing that is building the kind of university that I want to see, that I’m really proud of.”
In the future, Preston said, the Teamsters hope to negotiate for clear job seniority for the Penn dining hall workers.
“We want to ensure that those with seniority have the opportunity” to use their experience at the company to move either laterally or to a higher-paying position, Preston said. For example, when the new cafe in the ARCH building opens next semester, he wants to make sure that current employees with more experience are able to apply to the higher-paying jobs.
“We look to the future representing the new Teamster Local 929 Members,” Williams said.Comments powered by Disqus
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