Bon Appétit employees working in Emory Dining facilities at the Atlanta and Oxford campuses will “receive their regular earnings and benefits through the end of the semester,” according to a March 27 University-wide email.
The email, sent on behalf of Interim Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Jan Love, states that the University advocated on behalf of subcontracted Bon Appétit workers to ensure they were protected from a loss in earnings as a result of the University’s transition to remote learning.
EmoryUnite, a graduate student labor organization, had been working with the undergraduate student club Young Democratic Socialists of America at Emory to raise awareness about food service workers’ job insecurity through an online petition asking University President Claire E. Sterk to ensure that these workers receive pay and benefits during the Emory’s closure.
The petition had 397 signatures at the time of the March 27 announcement.
According to Jonathan Basile (24G), treasurer of EmoryUnite, Bon Appétit workers faced uncertainty about their employment in the two weeks following the University’s announcement of the move to online classes.
Basile said that about 200 food service workers at Emory are employed by Bon Appétit, an on-site restaurant company that provides services to universities, corporations and museums. During the extended spring break period, which began on March 16, the University had not posted scheduled hours for employees through the remainder of the semester.
“They [had] no posted hours, but they [had] also not been told that they were being laid off,” Basile said. “Not being laid off and not having any hours means that they have no paycheck but they also can’t apply for unemployment, so they [were] in a difficult position with a lot of uncertainty.”
Basile said he was glad that the University moved to support food service workers, but noted that the issue of job security for workers should have been resolved earlier.
“Emory paid attention to its workers and did the right thing, and we are happy to see that,” Basile said. “This really never should have been in question. From the time that this crisis started, Emory said that they would be supporting workers through this crisis, and it never should have been the case [for] 200 food service workers … that there would be a question if they would be included in that promise.”
Basile noted that as a result of social distancing and isolation protocols issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state health department, conventional methods of organizing protest would not work.
“A lot of what we would traditionally do to organize and support workers is difficult or impossible because of coronavirus,” Basile said. “We can’t hold demonstrations on campus; we can’t try to organize or reach out to workers in the dining hall.”
Director of Campus Dining Chad Sunstein did not respond to the Wheel’s request for comment by press time.