What is most interesting about the full-page paid advertisement that Chartwells put in the last Hurricane issue is not what it said, but what it failed to mention: wages and realistic access to benefits.
Many of the 300 foodservice workers on campus who are employed by Chartwells earn so little that they don’t make a “living wage” as defined by Miami-Dade County. A living wage is the amount a person needs to cover his or her basic needs, which include shelter, clothing and nutrition. If you struggle to pay for the bare necessities, even subsidized health care becomes unaffordable.
Covering dependents is completely out of reach for these workers. Adding two children to the plan would cost them an unrealistic sum of their paycheck. A Faculty Senate report from 2001 states that “fewer than a third of the eligible Chartwells employees participate in its plan” due to unaffordability. Today the situation is the same.
Here is what a worker told me: “I am working at Chartwells and I have been serving this community at the University of Miami for five years. I love my job working at the UM. However, I currently make less than $9 an hour. With the little that I earn, I can’t afford the basic things to take care of my family’s expenses. I was initially paying for the health insurance, but it was simply unaffordable.”
Those who work hard to provide for our food earn so little that they cannot lead a dignified life. This is the reason why Chartwells doesn’t want to talk about wages.