Bon Appâ€štit reacts to SWA’s living wage demands
As the SWA demands a “living wage” for all campus employees, some University contractors are concerned about how the group has approached the issue.
SWA’s proposed “Code of Conduct” states that the University should raise the wages of all contracted workers to the living-wage level set by the St. Louis Board of Aldermen, currently at $10.05 per hour with benefits. Such a demand, according to Bon Appâ€štit’s Interim Director of Dining Services Marilyn Pollack, is not as well thought-out as it should be.
One of Pollack’s central concerns is how workers with seniority-who already earn above the proposed living wage-would be compensated if SWA’s proposals are enacted.
“If I have a person who has had 10 years of experience as a cook, and he’s making $20 an hour, but yet I bring in somebody who has absolutely no experience at $9.79 or $10 an hour, how do you justify [the first] person’s time spent working?” said Pollack. “It’s just not fair all the way around.”
Kathy Carmody, general manger of Bon Appâ€štit on campus, said that all criticisms of the proposal aside, she supported the spirit of the protest.
“The real solution is really with the federal government and the fair labor standards,” said Carmody. “If we can nationalize what a living wage is, that would affect every company and every worker. But when you’re going to individual entities as we are here, the idea is a laudable one and it’s a good one, and I can’t imagine anyone arguing against it. But you also have to think about how to accomplish it [while] causing the least amount of disruption to everyone who would be affected.”
Carmody added that “Bon Appâ€štit or any other contractor on this campus is not going to be the solution to the big picture. And to blame the University, because it isn’t just the University, it’s out there everywhere…What they’re doing is a very good thing. Do you have to start certain places? Yes, but let’s pick the right places that are going to have the impact.”
Both Pollack and Carmody also voiced concerns about SWA’s communication with their organization and with the public, saying it had been one-sided.
“The few times that we’ve talked to them, we’ve gotten very little feedback from them,” said Carmody. “We’ve given them our perspective, we’ve shared our benefits information with them, and we’ve shared all the information that they’ve asked us for. Ultimately, we’ve gotten no response. I don’t think that they have all their facts. And I think that they’ve used some [tactics] that are very directional. I think that they’re selective.”
Carmody said the SWA had printed in its materials the wrong starting wage for Bon Appâ€štit workers. She said the entry wage for Bon Appâ€štit workers is $8 an hour-not the $7.50 claimed by the SWA. She also said the company doesn’t cap wages at $16 an hour for certain workers, as was also claimed by the SWA.
SWA responded to such claims by noting that it used data from documents published in early 2004.
Carmody and Pollack also denied allegations that Bon Appâ€štit or the University has threatened to fire workers for showing support for SWA or talking to the protesters. They pointed out that such behavior is illegal and that Bon Appâ€štit and the University would suffer severe legal and civil consequences if such an action were taken.
“Some are willing to talk to [the SWA],” said Carmody. “It’s just like any other situation. You’ve got some people who do want to get involved, and there are others who want to talk their head off. But have they come in here concerned or brought it to our manager? We haven’t heard anything from our employees, negative or positive, to be honest with you.”
Senior Danielle Christmas, a member of SWA, said that was not the case.
“In Fall 2003 people were getting fired left and right,” she said. “Bon Appâ€štit has been involved in union busting.”
Pollack cautioned that any change to wage policies should ensure minimum disruption to the employment of campus workers, especially if contractors were to be replaced by the University.
“If we did [that] suddenly you’d have a lot of people out of work that are now working,” said Pollack. “If we say, ‘We’re not going to be using this contractor,’ that’s a lot of people who are put out of work.”
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