Participants will sit in and walkout in solidarity
November 8, 2018
Exactly 10 years and nine days ago, the Labor Action Committee (LAC) held a rally to support food service workers in their contract negotiations with Bon Appetit.
History will repeat itself today, as the same organization—an umbrella program under the Santa Clara Community Action Program (SCCAP)—plans to host a silent protest in order to amplify the voices of Benson workers and use student privilege to spread awareness and put pressure on their union to do better.
“A lot of the issues from over 10 years ago are being echoed today,” LAC Program Coordinator and senior Hannah Zahn said in an email. “Is that surprising? No. But it is very frustrating and emotional and draining.”
Students plan to meet inside Benson Memorial Center at 1:40 p.m., then walk out at 2:00 p.m. for a silent protest.
During week seven, SCCAP members met with leaders from Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the union to which Benson workers belong.
Overall, the union supports the students’ movement, but urged them to focus on drawing attention to poor working conditions and heavy workloads, while the union tackles issues of living wages and medical benefits.
Members of SCCAP have tried to help workers in the past by talking to the Santa Clara administration and Bon Appetit management. Earlier this quarter, students had the opportunity to engage with workers and learn more about their experience working on Santa Clara’s campus.
They hope to host this sort of open forum more frequently in the future so community members can put a story to the face of those who serve them.
SCCAP’s next effort comes in the form of a protest, but Zahn notes that is not something students came up with on their own. Rather, it is what the workers asked of them. According to Zahn, the purpose of the protest is to show student support and empower workers.
“Something that SCCAP really focuses on is making sure that we are supporting the groups that we’re working with,” said senior Melanie Vezjak, who serves as the SCCAP office manager. “It’s not about saving them or helping them or trying to solve their problems for them. Our protest is mainly to show the workers that we are here and with this strength go and talk to the union and try to solve issues by themselves.”
According to Zahn, the protest is intentionally silent in order to raise awareness, be accessible for community members who aren’t aware of the circumstances and to ensure that participants are not speaking for the workers.
“Our work does not end with the protest, this is only the beginning,” Sarah Locklin, director of SCCAP, said.
Members of SCCAP also tabled for several hours every day this week outside of Benson, passing out buttons and stickers reading “I stand with Benson workers” and encouraging students to write down on posters why they appreciate or support the employees.
Zahn has created an email template for students to send to professors asking for their support and to advertise this issue, as well as graphics to post on social media like Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram.
A Facebook event was created for the Silent Protest, as well as an Instagram account @theempowermxntproject, which encouraged the tagging of the account in posts.
As of Wednesday, 115 people RSVP’d as “going” to the Silent Protest via the Facebook event, whereas another 100 were “interested.”
In spite of all her efforts toward the movement, Zahn insists that she does not work alone.
“There are a lot of people that are really involved in this and I don’t want anyone to be mistaken in thinking that it’s my project or that I’m the face of it,” Zahn said. “I have a very small role in this. It’s an empowerment department project and our goal is empowerment.”
Contact Erin Fox at email@example.com or call (408) 554-4852.