SLAC calls for restored benefits

March 1, 2012, 3:04 a.m.


While stating that no labor violations are taking place, University officials have agreed to consider demands by the Stanford Labor Action Coalition (SLAC) to restore employee benefits for Row House dining chefs and hashers, according to representatives of both groups.


SLAC released these demands and issued a petition to raise student awareness last December, wrote SLAC representative Laurel Fish ‘14 in an email to the Daily.


Earlier this month, SLAC released another petition, this time advocating for the resolution of benefit cuts for employees in Stanford dining halls. According to the new petition, there have been cases of employees who have been reduced from full time status to 75-percent status. Being at 75-percent status, the petition states, means these workers’ benefits — including health care, vacation pay and accrued time toward retirement — are significantly reduced.


Eric Montell, executive director of Stanford Dining, responded in a Feb. 10 online comment to the second petition, writing that “the statements in the highly inflammatory petition are grossly inaccurate, misrepresent the facts and do not reflect the business practices and core values of Stanford Dining.”


Referencing procedure for discussions with students groups, Montell wrote, “We are certain that process will allow the SLAC members to fully understand the reasons why we categorically refute the unwarranted and groundless allegations leveled against the practices and human resource treatment of workers in Stanford Dining.”


He added that administrators reached out to SLAC in response to the petition.


Fish, however, said that Dining administrators have ignored two separate requests for a meeting over these new issues.


Demands in the initial petition were crafted after a self-op kitchen manager alerted the organization in December to benefit cuts affecting Row dining workers, according to Fish. She added that SLAC went on to confirm these cuts with chefs and hashers of multiple self-operating houses.


“We believe that the response to the petition, with over 1,341 signatures from members of the Stanford community (as counted by the number of unique, valid email addresses), demonstrates the importance of these issues and the widespread support for workers on the Row,” Fish wrote.


The cuts may be the result of changes in the sub-contracting process within the 2012 contract for Student Organized Services (SOS). In a January email to supporters about the campaign, SLAC stated that SOS, previously the only provider of Row house kitchen labor, may have been forced to make cuts in order to compete with outside bidders.


SLAC presented four specific demands after talks with the affected workers. The demands dealt with reinstating vacation pay and granting full health care benefits removed after the 2010-11 academic year; covering parking permits and health certification expenses; and giving chefs, hashers and students more control than SOS over self-op, Greek and theme house kitchens.


Fish wrote that the demands represent the most direct cost-cutting measures included in the 2012 contract for the Row and take into account the slight pay increases that some workers received, which, when reconciled with benefit cuts, have resulted in a 6.8-percent average decrease in net compensation for workers.


“We are hoping that full benefits, including five weeks of paid vacation, significant holiday bonuses (as opposed to the $20-$40 that workers received this year as part of a trivial revenue-sharing plan), and full health care coverage will be mandated as basic standards for any sub-contractors that submit a bid to provide labor on the Row,” Fish wrote.


SLAC representatives met with Dean of Residential Education Deborah Golder and Vice Provost Greg Boardman in December. Golder wrote in an email to The Daily that she and Boardman “clarified that in fact, there are no labor violations taking place” and highlighted that that there have been changes in employee contracts with SOS.


“SLAC’s advocacy is for the well being of the men and women who serve in these roles,” Golder wrote. “We share this concern and are fully invested in supporting these hard working individuals — many of whom have served on the Row for decades.”


University administrators held a meeting with SLAC once again earlier this month in which they agreed to take the issues into consideration, especially SLAC’s request for the University to have Row student leaders involved in the conversations in preparation for the vendor bid process.


In the meantime, the Stanford Asian American Activism Committee (SAAAC), and the National Association for the Achievement of Colored People (NAACP), among others, are working as coalition partners for SLAC’s campaign against cost-cutting both on the Row and in dining halls.


“Although we did not solicit group co-sponsorships for the Row petition, we view issues on the Row and in dining halls as interrelated instances of cost-cutting that sacrifice worker’s rights for the bottom line, disrespect the hardworking food service workers on campus, threaten the autonomy of student communities, and undermine justice and food sustainability on campus,” Fish wrote.


SLAC’s most recent petition stated that Stanford Residential and Dining Enterprises (RD&E) “reduced many workers to part-time, 75 percent status, even though they still assign many of these works a 40-hour weekly workload.”


The petition also states that “R&DE managers have prohibited workers from talking to students and, when they do, threatened to move them to work at Arrillaga Dining, which already has a notorious reputation among the workers as one of the worst working environments.”


“Even after building Arrillaga [Family Dining Commons] and converting Yost, East, Murray, and Toyon from eating clubs to dining halls, R&DE has cut corners by not hiring more workers to serve the increase in work that needs to be done,” Fish said.


The demands of the new petition include that R&DE “return all workers to permanent, full-time status with full-time benefits as defined in the workers’ collective bargaining agreement” and to “ensure supervisors respect workers and value their work as required by Stanford policy and R&DE Core Values,” among other demands.

Ileana Najarro is the Managing Editor of News at The Stanford Daily. She previously worked as a News Desk Editor and Staff Writer.

Login or create an account