Trinity Dining Staff to Picket in Solidarity with C.C.S.U.

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COURTESY OF Milosz Kowal ’18, Trinity College Student Photographers

Just last year, Trinity’s dining staff picketed alongside Local 217 members to protect their rights to fair wages, benefits, and working conditions while their contracts were under negotiation. Now, they are wearing orange pins in solidarity with their fellow Local 217 union members at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU). The pins read “hands off our healthcare” and are being worn to bring awareness to the threats that are currently being made to CCSU worker’s wages and benefits. Although Trinity’s dining services are contracted by Chartwells and CCSU’s are contracted by Sodexo, employees at both schools are members of Local 217, the Connecticut chapter see FOOTBALL on page 11 for Unite Here, a union for hospitality and foodservice workers. During the past year, dining staffs across Connecticut, including Trinity’s, have settled contracts with their respective companies through the union. However, the dining staff at CCSU have been bargaining for almost nine months, fighting against proposed conditions that will force them to pay for part of their healthcare premiums, cut paid time off benefits, and expand their managers’ rights to scheduling and layoffs. According to Nene Villegas, an employee of Trinity’s dining staff for almost 27 years, it is important that all members of Local 217 unite “to show management here at Trinity that if one college is under attack that’s a part our union, we will unite for them.” Additionally, Villegas hopes the pins will help inform the student body as to what is going on outside of Trinity. It is important that the union unites for CCSU because in a few months, Wesleyan University, whose employees are also members of Local 217, will need to settle their contract. If a precedent for lower wages and fewer benefits is set now with CCSU, then Wesleyan and its foodservice company will try to negotiate for similar cuts which could eventually ricochet back to Trinity and other colleges in Connecticut. Villegas has worked at Trinity under the different foodservice companies it has contracted over the years, including Sodexo, and says, “these big companies look at us differently and we resent that because we love our careers and we love the student body. We’ve been here our whole lives and they don’t understand that we’ve chosen to make foodservice our careers.” Villegas, who started at Trinity when he was 19 years old and the minimum wage was less than $5 an hour says, “we hear that this is a ‘nothing job’ from management all the time. They look at us as a distraction because they have to work with our union but we’ve fought for 25 years to maintain these standards and grow our wages and livelihoods. If we don’t bond together for CCSU, our struggle is going to be that much harder.” On Thursday, Nov. 16, at 4:00 pm, there will be a rally led by Local 217 members at Trinity to deliver petitions to the administration in support of maintaining fair wages and working conditions for the CCSU dining staff. Additionally, Trinity’s dining staff plans to stage a picket in solidarity for the CCSU employees. The date of the picket has yet to be determined due to weather concerns, however, it will most likely happen this week before Thanksgiving break. All members of the Trinity community are encouraged to come out and support Trinity’s dining staff at these events.

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