After weeks of student uproar, Betty Asbury will return to work at Chartwells Wednesday.
However, Asbury will not be allowed back to her post as a cashier at the Hecht/Stanford Dining Hall.
Asbury was dismissed on Oct. 10, which she said was the day after a man walked past her in the Hecht/Stanford Dining Hall without paying.
The next week on Oct. 22, Chartwells sent corporate human resource personnel from Naples to Miami to review her dismissal.
According to the results of the termination appeal finding, Asbury will not be allowed to handle cash, and will be put on “final progressive counseling,” which functions as a final warning.
“I’m going back to work in fear,” Asbury said. “You think they’re still going to treat me fairly? I don’t believe so. I still ain’t going to have a voice.”
Though Asbury will be given another job with similar hours and back pay for her time out of work, Chartwells released a statement Monday saying that the original dismissal was warranted.
“A thorough review has been completed, and Chartwells has concluded that while the original dismissal decision was appropriate, after careful consideration of all aspects of Ms. Asbury’s work record, she will be given the opportunity for continued employment within campus dining services,” the statement read.
Many, including Asbury herself, believe the original dismissal was directly linked to her involvement in the push for a Chartwells union on campus.
Unionization would enable workers to negotiate as a group with the company in the hope of reaching a written agreement setting wages and work rules.
Philipp Schwind, a philosophy graduate student who started the petition to reinstate Asbury on change.org, said that companies, like Chartwells, are likely to respond negatively to workers they suspect are involved in union activity.
“Betty stood up for the union, and she got treated in a way that was clearly unfair,” he said. “What does that mean? Nobody can prove that it was for this reason, but I think if you approach this issue with open eyes, you can see that connection.”
Asbury plans to continue her efforts to form a union on campus. In the past, this has included talking to others Chartwells workers in the hopes of explaining the benefits of a union.
Patricia Whitely, UM vice president for student affairs, called a meeting Monday about the results of the investigation. Among those in attendance were SG president Nawara Alawa and Joe Natoli, UM senior vice president for business and finance and chief financial officer.
“From the university administration standpoint, we are pleased that the appeals process seems to have worked as it should,” Natoli said in the meeting.
Others, like senior Javier Figueroa, believe that the results of the investigation conflict with the original reasons for termination.
“If in fact they had proof of her wrongdoing, they wouldn’t have brought her back,” he said. “The way Chartwells posed this is just trying to save face. They are just trying to make it sound like they always respected Miss Betty.”
The Chartwells statement also read: “The safety and security of all guests and associates on campus is a top priority for Chartwells, and we appreciate and respect the campus community.”
Although Asbury has mixed emotions about her return to work, she is glad to soon see a steady income again. She believes this would have not have been possible without student support.
STAND, an activist organization on campus, hosted events throughout the week to rally students for the cause. On Wednesday, members hand delivered the change.org petition – which, as of 6 p.m. Tuesday, had more than 3,800 signatures – to on-campus Chartwells offices.
“If the students, the community and STAND weren’t behind me, they wouldn’t have reinstated me,” Asbury said. “I can’t be heard at Chartwells, but I can be heard in the community.”
Although Schwind values student involvement, he wishes it were unnecessary.
“It can’t be that whenever a worker gets fired for unjust reasons, students step up,” he said. “If this incident has shown anything, it’s that Chartwells internal policies don’t work – they are not in line with our values on campus. They don’t provide workers with the respect they deserve.”
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