Left Out in the Cold: Dining Hall Workers Struggle Over Winter Term
During the summer and semester breaks, the cafeterias are closed, preventing the workers from logging any hours. However, because Bon Appétit technically still employs them, workers are ineligible to collect unemployment. Instead, these breaks are treated as unpaid holidays. Workers in Dascomb and Wilder who did receive unemployment checks for the month of January due to government error were forced to return them.
Since Bon Appétit took over food management at Oberlin College in 2001, there has been friction between the corporation and the union representing its employees. Although the company requires that CDS workers join the union when they are hired, Bon Appétit has frequently clashed with its employees over pay and time off. According to employees who wish to remain anonymous, tensions stem from the fact that whereas most Bon Appétit institutions are not unionized, Oberlin is.
Bon Appétit manages food services for 16 other colleges in the United States, including Lewis and Clark College and Case Western Reserve University, where in 2004 unionized cafeteria employees protested their treatment and low pay. The union’s leader was arrested.
Most workers have been employed by the college for over ten years and can remember the changeover from Sodexho Marriott. One employee recalls, “It used to be that one dorm was always open during Winter Term and breaks for those kids that couldn’t go anywhere.”
The College broke with Sodexho Marriott due to student campaigns against the company’s involvement in funding private prisons.