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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

SJU Dining staff furloughed due to the coronavirus

Normally filled with students throughout the afternoon, the seating at Campion Dining hall was roped off and empty on Mar. 18. PHOTO: LUKE MALANGA ’20/THE HAWK

Currently, 175 of 186 total hourly associates, managers and supervisors contracted from Aramark are placed on furlough through mid-May, according to Kristina Coble, general manager of SJU Dining. 

Under the furlough, Aramark employees working at St. Joe’s keep their benefits and are eligible to apply for unemployment, Coble said. 

In four weeks, more than 1.4 million Pennsylvania residents have filed for unemployment following the closure of non-life sustaining businesses due to the coronavirus, according to the Pennsylvania Office of Unemployment Compensation. 

All dining locations across St. Joe’s campus, aside from the P.O.D., are closed as most students, faculty and staff finish the semester remotely due to the coronavirus. 

Only students who have indicated they need to stay on campus during this time and essential university support staff are permitted to use the remaining on-campus dining option, the P.O.D. to purchase hot meals served daily from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. as well as snacks and provisions. According to Coble, less than 40 students have this approval.

The university’s third-party contracts are based on services rendered and are adjusted depending on campus needs, according to Gail Benner, director of PR and Media. 

“Our contractors make staffing decisions based on those needs,” Benner wrote in an email to The Hawk.

According to Benner, campus is not closed, but it is operating with essential personnel only.

St. Joe’s faculty and staff are expected to work remotely if they are able. However, unlike contracted workers employed by Aramark, “The University will continue to pay employees who would have otherwise been regularly scheduled to work, but are unable to complete work at home, until further notice, without use of employee sick time,” the university website says.

Benner said the university is not providing wages for Aramark employees furloughed during this time. 

Keith Brown, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology, is co-chair of the Just Employment Ad Hoc committee that aims to implement a Just Employment Policy modeled after that of Georgetown University. For Brown, the policy is centered in accepting contracted workers as part of the university community. 

“There’s this great messaging coming out of this university that makes us feel proud to be here, but contracted employees are not the audience,” Brown said. “There’s an us versus them. Just Employment Policy seeks to change that.”

The University of Pennsylvania is one institution that agreed to provide wages for its dining staff who are laid off through the end of the spring 2020 semester, including those employed directly by the university as well as employees contracted by Bon Appetit. Penn announced it would pay workers following a petition with over 8,300 signatures circulated by the university’s Student Labor Action Project, according to a report by The Daily Pennsylvanian

Members of the Fordham University community, a Jesuit institution, signed a petition circulated by Fordham Workers’ Rights Advocates asking the university to work with contractors to ensure on-campus workers employed by Aramark and other companies receive wages during furloughs. 

“We knew before the petition that Fordham had decided to let the employers of contracted employees (such as Aramark) make [wage] decisions and we felt that was unjust,” said Aaron Gladstone, co-President of Fordham Workers’ Rights Advocates, in a statement to The Hawk.

The group has yet to hear back from Fordham’s administration regarding the petition as of press time, according to Gladstone. 

Alex Taliadoros, Director of Organizing at Georgetown University’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor said universities should work with contractors to ensure that contracted workers can retain their wages and benefits throughout the pandemic for as long as they would have been employed in a normal academic year.

“As multi-million dollar clients, universities have tremendous influence over these contractors and how they treat their workers, and with great power comes great responsibility,” Taliadoros wrote in an email to The Hawk.

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