In the midst of a global pandemic, approximately 140 dining hall workers from Penn will be laid off starting March 31. The affected staff members are employed by Bon Appétit Management Company, Penn’s dining services provider. The decision to lay off workers was made by Compass Group, Bon Appétit’s parent company. After learning about Compass Group’s plans, the Student Labor Action Project started a petition for the workers to not lose their jobs that currently has approximately 5,300 signatures. College senior and SLAP member Erik Vargas also said SLAP plans to create a GoFundMe page for the laid off workers.
Even though the decision to lay off workers did not come directly from Penn Dining, the University has a moral responsibility to support the staff members who serve our community. If Compass Group cannot pay the workers who have taken care of Penn students in our times of need, Penn should.
As a school with a $14.65 billion endowment whose president earned a $3.9 million salary in 2016, the University surely has the resources to support these workers in one of the most economically and physically vulnerable moments in our lifetimes. In fact, Penn has already taken initiatives to help pay work-study students while off campus. It’s time to find the funds to help dining hall workers as well, recognizing that they are part of the broader Penn community.
Although Penn has no legal responsibility to pay the dining workers, doing so would be a powerful act of good faith that shows Penn cares about staff and the local community. The University often boasts of its efforts to aid the West Philadelphia community through various initiatives like the Civic House and academically-based community service courses. But what about the community members under our own roof? Penn’s website says the University is "inspired by what Benjamin Franklin called 'an inclination … to serve mankind.'" Our dining staff have served our community for years, so it’s time we return the favor.
It is true, Penn is probably experiencing financial hardships currently as the United States enters a recession. But whatever economic hardship the school is facing, staff members at the school are facing it much harder. There has never been a more necessary time to reallocate funds to help the vulnerable people on our campus.
“We work just as hard as the Penn workers do. We go above and beyond for the college,” said Falk Dining Hall chef Troy Harris, who has worked at Penn for the past 20 years. It is now time for Penn Dining to go above and beyond to make sure nobody in our community gets left behind in the wake of a global crisis —
especially our dining staff.
Editorials represent the majority view of members of The Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. Editorial Board, which meets regularly to discuss issues relevant to Penn's campus. Participants in these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on related topics.
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