Undergraduate Workers Union holds a panel after demands not met

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Sakura Cannestra/File

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The Undergraduate Workers Union, or UWU, held a panel Thursday to discuss safety risks and other problems regarding Cal Dining Management in front of Foothill Dining Commons.

This panel came after UC Berkeley and Cal Dining management failed to meet the demands of the Undergraduate Worker’s Union following the union’s walkout earlier this week. The panelists included representatives from almost every major dining hall and covered issues such as rodents in dining areas, improper training and lack of consistency with the job descriptions for the workers.

“The point of forming an independent union is to be able to give voice to the students, to ourselves, as, like, students and workers, because we’re both,” said Jessica Gonzalez, an organizer for the Undergraduate Workers Union.

Kristian Kim, a worker at the Foothill Dining Commons, said during the panel that the space has problems with ants and rats and alleged that the dining hall was only able to pass health inspection by lying on official documents. They also said student employees are forced to take on more and more responsibilities as the dining halls force the older “career staff” out and replace them with untrained undergraduate workers.

Cal Dining employees staged a walkout Monday to protest unjust working conditions and wages among other problems within the Cal Dining system. The union called for the campus to respond to their demands within 48 hours. According to Gonzalez, the campus has failed to respond to the demands within the given time frame.

Gonzalez said the union is requesting a living wage, safer working conditions and a rollback of tuition increases with an end to the Cancel for Non-Payment policy. According to Gonzalez, the campus is not addressing the problems. She said Cal Dining management did not properly address UWU’s concerns during a Wednesday meeting between management and UWU members at Crossroads Dining Hall.

“We are working for the university, but we are also attending the university; we’re being exploited on two different fronts,” Gonzalez said. “We are being exploited in the workplace where we are underpaid … but then we are also attending this institution and we have to pay high tuition.”

Campus spokesperson Adam Ratliff said Cal Dining workers are currently paid the city minimum wage, $12.53 per hour, and wages will be increased to $13.75 per hour in October 2017. He also said students are trained when they are hired and as they take on new responsibilities. Ratliff said students who work at least half-time over an 80-hour period, or two pay cycles, are eligible for sick leave.

“Officials with our Residential and Student Services Programs, who are committed to ensuring a safe and fair workplace, are hoping to have a continued conversation to better understand the student-workers’ concerns,” Ratliff said in an email.

Contact Kate Tinney at [email protected].