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Bon Appétit food workers look to unionize

Bon Appétit food workers Eddie Briones and Prince Jones share their stories about being overworked at a rally Thursday in Sneaky Park. Among the problems they discussed were being required to work 10-hour shifts without breaks. The employees originally approached management on Tuesday, requesting the right to organize. Their second appeal to management was Thursday with no response. Currently, supporters from faculty, local clergy, students of Voices in Action and the Latino Student Forum are gathering support from the University community. Bon Appetit has yet to issue a statement in response to the workers. / photo by Zachary Horton

Bon Appétit food workers Eddie Briones and Prince Jones share their stories about being overworked at a rally Thursday in Sneaky Park. Among the problems they discussed were being required to work 10-hour shifts without breaks. The employees originally approached management on Tuesday, requesting the right to organize. Their second appeal to management was Thursday with no response. Currently, supporters from faculty, local clergy, students of Voices in Action and the Latino Student Forum are gathering support from the University community. Bon Appetit has yet to issue a statement in response to the workers. / photo by Zachary Horton

Katie Madden
Staff Writer

Students and faculty members gathered to offer their support for non-student Bon Appétit employees who feel they have unfair working conditions on Thursday.

Although the workers were given their legal right to fair process to organize with a union, the company refused to listen to the workers’ concerns.

A group of workers, faculty members, local clergy and students went to speak with Bon Appétit regional management on Tuesday about poor conditions, but were turned away.

Employees voiced concerns about having to work too many jobs at once, not having enough time to take breaks and being ignored and disrespected in the workplace.

Eddie Briones and Prince Jones spoke about their experiences working for Bon Appétit at University of La Verne.

They discussed their passion for food and providing students with the best quality meals they can. But they said they have a hard time providing this service.

“They (Bon Appétit) say to give us more and get it done,” Briones said. “They’re not living up to their standards and morals of fair labor practices.”

“Each person in the kitchen is doing at least three to four positions by themselves,” said Briones.

“We’ve (told) management, ‘We need help, is there any way that we cannot do a certain thing tonight?’ and they tell us, ‘No, get it done, it is what it is.’”

Jones and Briones said that they often have to do preparation work before they are allowed to clock in and also that they have continue working after clocking out in order to get everything done.

In one example, Briones said some of the employees are expected to prepare two-to-three crates of potatoes to feed students. This includes lifting the crates to the counter, peeling the potatoes and cooking them to order.

Trying to keep up with the rush during meals, on top of their other duties, leaves many employees feeling tired and beat up, they said.

While they are encouraged to take their legal breaks, they do not have the time or enough staff members to cover the work to go on their breaks, they said.

There have been several incidents where workers reported broken tools but were ignored by management, then later incorrectly blamed for not telling management about them, they said.

Students and faculty members have expressed their interest in the issues and showed their support for the workers.

Students held a Rock painting and information event on Wednesday to inform people about the food service workers’ issues. Community members were asked to sign a petition and spread the word about the Thursday event.

“We’re trying to get community support and tell the workers we’re with them,” Brenda Uribe, junior psychology major, said Wednesday. “We’re going to chant ‘Si se Puede’ in Davenport on Thursday to show the workers how much we appreciate them.”

On Thursday, the workers expressed their concern about the chant having negative consequences from management and the protest was postponed.

However, this did not stop students and faculty from gathering and discussing the issues and their goals.

“The campus community is on notice and we are obliged to pay close attention to this matter,” said Matt Witt, associate professor of public administration.

University President Devorah Lieberman issued a statement on Thursday.

“As your president, allow me to emphasize that the university supports a safe and fair working environment for any person working on our campus. We respect Bon Appétit’s employees’ rights to a fair process to organize, in which they can make an informed choice about whether or not they want union representation – free from coercion.

“At the same time, the university also respects Bon Appétit Management’s right to express their stance,” read the statement emailed to faculty and staff Thursday.

The employees are awaiting a response from Bon Appétit before taking any further action.

Katie Madden can be reached at kaitlin.madden@laverne.edu.

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