Benson workers ask employer for better conditions
The Santa Clara
May 24, 2018
At a university that preaches equality and hosts talks by labor rights activists, workers are fighting for respect, dignity and consistent schedules from their employer.
Approximately 40 Benson workers gathered in the Shapell Lounge last Friday to express their grievances with current working conditions.
Employed by Bon Appetit catering service, the workers raised concerns about how new work changes jeopardize their job security.
In 2011, workers protested alleged mistreatment by the restaurant company for a strenuous workload and on-call expectations despite not being hired for an on-call position.
One worker declared that the company disregards the workers’ needs.
She said that though workers oppose this treatment, they comply because they depend on the income to provide for themselves and their families.
A common complaint amongst workers deals with the newly implemented rotation system.
According to workers, they are rotated through food stations regardless of seniority or experience.
One worker said she prepares the food, but does not have the qualifications of a chef.
Despite this, she was expected to fulfill chef responsibilities when there was a worker shortage.
Workers also said they often do not know their work location day-by-day, which causes stress.
One woman described mornings as hectic as she scrambled to find parking and then find out her work placement.
Pedro Garcia, a Benson cook for 16 years, raised concerns about the changing schedules.
According to Garcia, the company plans to change some workers’ schedules from the weekdays to the weekend.
Garcia said that such changes jeopardize his parental custody rights and prevent him from seeing his children.
“We all have family, we want to be with our kids,” Garcia said. “I’m a single father. I have three children and I fought in court to have my children over the weekends and they messed up my schedule.”
Thierry Bourroux, the general manager of dining services, stated in an email that such changes are a result of the Benson first floor expansion and student feedback asking to extend hours and expand meal options.
“Expanded hours and expanded station offerings do require changes to our staff’s schedules,” Bourroux said. “We are open to working with the union on how we go about setting schedules to best meet the new operational needs and the needs of our employees.”
However, workers said that the company disregards student interest in food quality.
Workers said that meals, like sandwiches and burritos, are now prepared the day before.
They said this new practice contradicts Bon Appetit’s mission of serving fresh and local food.
Denise Solis, the vice president of Service International Union (SEIU) United Service Workers West, stated in a message to Benson workers that the company must balance student needs with the workers’ rights.
“Bon Appetit has a responsibility to meet the demands of the university and the students and within reason under their management rights may have to make certain changes to schedules,” the message said.
“We will work to make sure they are done within reason and respecting seniority and with a timeline and process that gives any affected workers time to adjust,” it continued.
Darciano Sioda, a Benson custodian for 30 years, shared that he enjoys working at Santa Clara but believes the company contradicts the university’s values by disrespecting its workers.
“We love working here,” Sioda said. “We love the students. I love to serve the community and our students. The university has a saying about compassion and this company has no compassion for the hardworking workers who have been here for over 40 years.”
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