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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Help wanted: Dining Hall in dire need of workers as severe student staff shortage continues

By Gyana Singh and Sneha Lohani

The new Dining Services contract, negotiated last spring by the Union of Grinnell Student Dining Workers (UGSDW), came into effect at the beginning of last semester. Wages in the dining hall are historically high — $10 per hour for student workers and $10.75 per hour for student leaders (a supervisory position within Dining Services), with the opportunity for increases over time.

Besides the significant wage increase, there have been a lot of improvements aiming to tackle workplace harassment and sick leaves. Still, Dining Services is struggling with severe underemployment, leading to venue closure within the Marketplace.

“Even with the promise of breaks between two-hour shifts, hardly anyone gets to take time off, simply because working in the dining hall is so hectic, especially in the dish room,” said Haruna Suzuki ’23, who works in Dining services. 

“Additionally, there are other jobs on campus that have much more flexible policies on using your devices. You can actually do homework and get paid.”

New policies have changed all two-hour shifts during dinner to four-hour shifts, meaning that students involved in choir, orchestra or athletics cannot work them.To address the worker shortage, the UGSDW has devised a threefold strategy to push for during contract negotiations this year. The Union believes there is still room to increase wages and improve workplace conditions, and they hope to make shift times more flexible for student workers.

Evangeline Bolles-Rioux ’22, press secretary of the UGSDW, said that although conditions have improved for student workers, there are still problems that need to be tackled. 

“There are certain policies in place that if a student is ill and is obligated to miss a shift, they have to get a doctor’s note, which means workers have to go to urgent care and they get penalized for getting sick. Also, the college has not provided proper working conditions and benefits to full-time workers. This creates an overall unappealing workplace environment, where nobody is satisfactorily compensated for their labor.”

“Despite the struggles, student workers remain an integral part of our team to ensure that the dining hall is offering the best variety and quality of food to our students,” said Tace Clark, associate director of dining services.

“We offer great opportunities for students to gain life skills and job experience. In return, we have a dynamic and flexible workforce in our student workers that helps us to serve the best food possible. I believe we will need to continually evolve to partner with our student workers to ensure we are offering appropriate shifts, schedules and opportunities that fit with their academic responsibilities.”

In the meantime, stations at the Dining Hall remain empty.

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