MAX FURIGAY ’19
On Saturday, October 8, 2016 at 11:15 a.m., food service workers from Trinity College began a rally to protest the contract that Chartwells is proposing for the upcoming renewal. The protesters were joined by over 200 other employees from other colleges including Eastern Connecticut State University, University of Hartford, Western Connecticut State University, and Coast Guard Academy. The rally was organized by Unite Here 217, which is a union that represents over 850 colleges employing food service workers. The protests were directed towards the three major college food service providers in Connecticut: Chartwells, Sudexo, and Aramark.
The contract between the employees and management expired this summer, and negotiations have been ongoing ever since. Under Chartwells’ proposed new contract, employees would be responsible for paying much higher healthcare insurance costs and would face reduced hours worked. The workers allege that Chartwells is stiffing employees while turning a large profit: “Chartwells is [taking advantage of] you guys,” accused an employee who wished to remain anonymous. “How many meals do you have left over each week? They overcharge you guys and underpay us, and make money both ways.”
“I am a single mom supporting eight children and Chartwells is trying to cut my hours, make me pay for my own health insurance; there is no way that I can support my family with what they want to pay me,” explained a Chartwells employee has worked for Chartwells for over 20 years. The rally began outside near Mather Circle and proceeded into Mather Dining Hall, where protesters chanted and waved signs in the lobby. Campus Safety officers showed up but no action was taken to disrupt the rally. “If Trinity students care about the Hartford community, they will care about us and this issue because we are the community,” stated a Trinity Unite Here 217 spokesperson, Jose Villegas. “We are all from Hartford.”
The issue with contract renewals reaches farther than Trinity College or even Connecticut. Food service workers at universities have been protesting and striking in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New Hampshire. Two workers at Trinity explained that they enjoyed working at Trinity very much, but that it was difficult to make ends meet since Chartwells reduced the number of hours that employees work. The closure of the C Store on the north side of campus reduced the total number of hours necessary each week, which was supposed to be replaced by more workers in the Cave. However, this replacement was not able to fully replace the hours worked by Chartwells employees, who often struggle to work 25 or even 20 hours a week.
The contract dispute is ongoing and Unite Here 217 hopes to raise awareness and sympathy for the workers’ cause in order to resolve the issue without rolling back employee benefits.
The Tripod is currently reaching out to Trinity and Chartwells administrators for further comment.
MAX FURIGAY ’19