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After widespread backlash, Penn will pay laid-off Bon Appétit workers through May 15.

Credit: Alec Druggan

Penn will pay laid-off dining workers employed by Bon Appétit Management Company through May 15. The decision followed a grassroots campaign urging the University to compensate the workers.  

Bon Appétit had previously planned to lay off approximately 140 workers in the retail dining cafes and Falk Dining Commons without pay at the end of March due to the coronavirus pandemic. Since then, students organized a petition, garnering over 8,000 signatures, that called on the University and Bon Appétit to ensure that the workers continue to be paid.

“After the population of campus undergraduate and graduate students declined from approximately 26,000 to 500, we understood Bon Appétit’s need to curtail these dining operations,” Vice President of Business Services Marie Witt wrote in an emailed statement to The Daily Pennsylvanian. “Through Penn’s financial support, Penn is ensuring that these individuals receive their expected income through the end of the semester.”

Students from the Student Labor Action Project started a Change.org petition on March 17 titled “Don’t Lay Off Penn Dining Workers” addressed to the University of Pennsylvania, President Amy Gutmann, Penn Dining Services, Bon Appétit, and Compass Group. Organizers of the petition called on the University to either pay workers themselves or pressure Bon Appétit and their parent company, Compass Group, to do so.

When the University decided to provide retail dining workers salary and benefits through March 31, Penn's goal was to support these workers in the "near-term" until there was more clarity on the length and impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Penn Business Services spokesperson Barbara Lea-Kruger wrote in an email to the DP. Lea-Kruger wrote that the last two weeks of March gave the University time to make the decision to pay retail dining workers until the end of the semester.

The University has already guaranteed salary and benefits for full-time residential dining staff, who are employed by the University and not Bon Appétit, through the remainder of the semester. Lea-Kruger previously wrote to the DP that these workers are supporting “essential dining operations" amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Penn’s retail dining, which has been closed due to coronavirus, includes Houston Market, Pret a Manger, Joe's Café, and other cafes on campus where students use dining dollars. 1920 Commons is currently open to serve students and essential workers on campus, Lea-Kruger wrote. Falk Dining Commons staff are the only residential dining workers employed by Bon Appétit.

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