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UM food service workers demand higher wages

Chartwells employees making just below $10,000 per year

Ashley Montgomery | 9/19/2013, 9 a.m.
Workers at UM are still battling for better wages and benefits. Photo courtesy Erik Brakken

Last spring, Chartwells employees fought to have a union and ultimately were granted that request. Now months later, cafeteria workers at the Hecht Dining Hall are facing a new battle. For the last several months, University of Miami [UM] food service employees under the company Chartwells Dining Services have been in negotiation surrounding two issues: money and affordable health insurance.

Last week, 15 cafeteria workers stated a ceremonial boycott, walking off for the job from noon until 2 p.m. Eric Brakken, Florida director for 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union which represents the workers, says that the Chartwells company isn’t negotiating in good faith.

“They continue to say that they don’t have the money to pay their workers because their contract with UM won’t allow them to,” he said. “Workers are making just below $10,000 a year and that is not enough to live. That’s an issue when this is a billion dollar company.”

About 350 cafeteria workers at UM are part of the union.

Chartwells Dining Services disagrees and replied to the allegations via an official media statement.

“Chartwells replied to the allegations with an official media statement.

“In recent negotiations with the Union, Chartwells made a comprehensive economic proposal that offers wage increases throughout the terms of the collective bargaining agreement and significant improvement on health benefits at no cost to those eligible associates.”

As of Monday, Sept. 16, Chartwells says that they have already made agreements to other improvements including honoring and improving the hours of the more senior associates and additional resources for all associates to grieve and arbitrate their concerns. They respect all of its associates and is committed to continue to negotiate in good faith in accordance with the law.

Many of the employees that were a part of the walk-out are residents of Liberty City, Opa-locka and Coconut Grove.

“This is really historic for not only Chartwells’ employees but food service workers all over Miami,” Brakken said. “We are worth more. We can stand up.”