Opinion

UM should defend Chartwells workers

In today’s globalized world, our social relations with other people are sometimes simple, sometimes hidden and complex, and sometimes, both at once. You relate simply and directly to the Chartwells food service workers when you buy a sandwich or a cup of coffee at many places on campus. You may see them on a regular basis, know their names, smile and chat with them.

These workers are paid, on average, $9.50 per hour. This is well below what Miami-Dade County determines is a ‘living wage.’ For a single adult, a living wage is considered to be $12.06 per hour. Since campus food service workers are furloughed when classes are not in session and have had their hours cut back in a move by Chartwells to squeeze the same work from them for less money, many of them make around $10,000 a year.

Your friendly food service workers on campus are paid poverty wages. To try and improve their pay and working conditions, a majority of these workers have officially signified their desire to join a union. Chartwells is refusing to respect this choice.

You may be asking yourselves what it has to do with UM, and hence with you. Is this not a matter between Chartwells and its employees alone? Well, imagine that your drain is blocked and you need a plumber. The various plumbers you consider employing all have their assistants. Suppose that some of those plumbers mistreat and underpay those assistants while others do not. Will you be indifferent to witnessing an abusive relationship as they work on your sink? Or will you make a mental note to find a different plumber next time?

As human beings,  we have all sorts of views about the kind of world we wish to live in, all sorts of conceptions about moral responsibilities for fairness, justice and dignity. Why should any of these ideals disappear just because you are making an economic decision?

You are the University of Miami. And UM believes in fairness, justice and dignity for all. These values cannot be segregated and excluded by the university just because it does not employ those workers directly. The university can and should make known to Chartwells the value it places on allowing those who work here to pursue the legal means at their disposal to remedy, as quickly as possible, the poverty wages and other workplace problems they face.

 Simon Evnine is an associate professor in the department of philosophy. 

April 3, 2013

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Simon Evnine


6 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “UM should defend Chartwells workers”

  1. Hurricane Alumni says:

    Professor,

    When I started at UM 2004, working security night shifts was one of the higher paying jobs on campus. It was $8/hour. I couldn’t afford Miami’s cost of living and had to work night jobs for my undergrad years at UM. My last two years of college I held two jobs on top of classes and extracurriculars. If you can promise me that the highest average wage today for UM students who have completed high school is above $12/hour, your statement contents.

    I assume that when you went to college, you were able to forgoe the Ramen noodle diets, scrap up dollars just to get out to the Grove on a Thursday, and afford a car that can get you to a decent paying night job around here.

    For the alumni who have completed their $160,000 education since 2008, you may want to dig deeper to find out what our net wages our after loans and include those not employed (but toss out those who are in graduate school).

    I fully support the people who work at Chartwells, most of them were very sweet and nice to me while I was in school — but I think they should be offered tuition reimbursement or free classes to get a degree and get to the next level whether that be in culinary or another school. After the loans, that average from the last five years won’t be much higher than $15 an hour.

    Don’t be a teamster union bully, a lot of your ALUMNI who are still paying their tuition off are underwater. A lot of your ALUMNI worked for these wages or less while in school as young adults just to meet the cost of living in Miami.

    If you think they have a basement job, find a solution that gets the Chartwell workers to the next level without giving them a handout in a salary increase. The Unico unionization was a low blow to all the students working and paying for college. Maybe if Chartwell workers were offered tuition reimbursement, they would be more part of the UM student body as at most colleges than a distinct “social class” on the campus that you separate them as.

  2. Bingo says:

    Sorry, nix this part of my first sentence “(tuition) by increasing the price of food”

  3. Bingo says:

    If we increased wages for workers, it doesn’t necessarily come out of students pockets (tuition) by increasing the price of food. First off, we’re already paying in taxes, the difference, because most of the workers are forced to rely on government help (UM doesn’t pay taxes, btw). Second, Chartwells pays UM to sell here, and UM gets some odd 25% cut of all Chartwells profits on campus. So, if Chartwells comes to the table with it’s employees, and they want higher wages (they might not ask for that btw, they might put more priority on job security at negotiations), it comes out of Chartwells pockets, and yes they can afford it being the size of company they are. Chartwells, Sodexo, and Aramark monopolize their niche at, if I remember right, 87% of all contracts nationally. Now, if Chartwells wants to readjust their contract with UM, and they want to pay UM less, and thus UM decides to take that money out of student pockets, it’s UM choice to take it out of our pockets. Student tuition only accounts for, what was it, 30% of UM’s funding. Plus, UM could stop building all that useless *&%^ that I’ll never get to use anyway. Now, if Chartwells wants to increase the price of their food… well I’m down to pay an extra 30 cents so that 300 people don’t have to suffer at my profit. If Chartwells doesn’t think the situation is worthwhile, Aramark or Sodexo, I’m sure, would love the spot, and being willing to take “the hit”… Or, as last resort, UM runs its own food service like a responsible university, and stops profiting off worker poverty (remember UM gets a 25% cut currently). At the end of the day, There is no reason in hell that these hard working men and women have to be treated like they are. Finally, I wish people would stop talking about this issue just in terms of money. It’s far more important that we see this issue in terms of the voice that Chartwells workers are being denied. And that’s all a union is. The right to representation. When I go to court, i have the right to a lawyer. Working for chartwells is like a freaking death sentence. Talk to the workers like I have, they are so sick and tired of being sick and tired. Chartwells doesn’t give a $*&^. I wonder if my university will.

  4. Justice says:

    I’m sure TIm loves (along with the rest of us) paying benefits for Chartwells workers because they don’t make liveable wages and don’t get adequate health care. Enjoy paying taxes on behalf of Chartwells, my conservative friend. Just because Chartwells can do something doesn’t mean it is right. I would be willing to pay higher food costs, yet I think Chartwells and UM can find a way to make it work without doing so. I’m sorry you are myopic, Tim. I encourage you to put down the Fountainhead and step into the real world.

  5. Justice says:

    Chartwells needs to respect the workers’ decision to join a union. They deserve better, more than the poverty wages that they are paid do not reflect a fair and equitable society.

  6. Tim says:

    UM contracts Chartwells
    Chartwells hires workers
    Workers get paid above minimum wage
    I’m not sure I see the problem here or what you expect to be done so I’ll lay this out for you.
    1: UM chooses not to renew its contract with Chartwells and these workers are out of a job
    2: We agree to raise the cost of dining to accommodate higher wages
    At the end of the day a job is only worth as much as people are willing to pay for it. I know quite a few people who already find dining to be too expensive and considering you could likely find 40 or so people willing to take these jobs at the same wage they don’t deserve a raise. The workers are paid a legal wage and treated lawfully. I pay them to make food and the food is made. The extent to which some college students misunderstand the world is baffling.

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