A handful of cafeteria workers at Penn are heralding an end to the inequities between the employment conditions of their colleagues on campus. They secured a union contract yesterday, after a week of negociations between their employer, the Bon Appetit Management Company, and Teamsers Local 929 representatives and worker representatives.
Until now, the 16 full-time staff of Penn’s Falk Dining Commons, the University’s kosher cafeteria, were at-will workers employed directly by Bon Appetit, like about half of Penn’s full-time cafeteria staff. The other half, employed by Penn and represented by AFSMCE District Council 47, fare significantly better in terms of wages, benefits and working conditions.
With the support of student activists, they began a public campaign for better working conditions in March. They acquired union representation with the Teamsters in April.
The three-year contract, ratified today unanimously by the workers, includes provisions that will gurantee “significant wage increases,” pension contributions, “affordable” health care, and more sick days and vacation time, according to John Preston, the Secretary-Tresurer of Teamsters Local 929.
It will also ensure that they won’t have to wait every August for a letter from Bon Appetit notifying them they’ll still have a job come September. “Now they’re working under the terms of a contract,” said Preston.
The most significant benefits for Troy Harris, an assistant shop steward who has worked in the dining hall since 2000, are the seniority provisions and raises. “We don’t have to walk a tightrope to get a raise,” he said. “Everything is in our contract.”
Almost a hundred other full-time cafeteria workers at Penn are still at-will workers employed by Bon Appetit, but Preston said he hopes to change that. “We’re pursuing all Bon Appetit employees at the University of Pennsylvania,” he said. He hopes that thanks to this first contract, they will “become aware of the benefits of being covered by a union.”
Bon Appetit declined to comment on the contract.