Image Courtesy of UNITE HEREShouldn't workers who serve food on college campuses be free to speak up on the job? Food integrity can't really exist if those charged with handling your food have no voice.
Fortunately, UNITE HERE – the largest worker organization in North America representing food service workers – has launched its Real Food Real Jobs campaign at universities in the nation's capital to ensure better working conditions and worker participation in bringing safe, healthy food options to students.
In addition to pushing for traditional benefits – including living wages, health care benefits, and full-time work hours – the campaign is also making worker voices a priority. Erin O'Donnell, a UNITE HERE research analyst working on the campaign, explained why worker input is an incredibly valuable asset to the food movement.
They are on the front-lines of the growing, preparing, cooking, serving, of the foodservice industry, and their voices not only matter in a basic human sense in that everyone should have the right to be able to speak up on their job and talk about what matters to them and have their voices be heard, but they're also really valuable because they know what it means to try to serve thousands of often pretty picky students every single day and try to feed them the best quality food possible.
To ensure the workers have a voice, UNITE HERE is working to establish a "joint worker/management committee" that involves workers and campus community members in food-related decision-making. It gives those on the front-lines a key voice where it counts. Again, from O'Donnell:
That committee is also going to conduct a survey of workers to get everyone's input on what kind of changes should be made in the dining halls. The committee is also going to serve as a place where workers can bring concerns about food safety and food quality if issues like that happen to arise, which is a great protection for workers.
The effort in DC has already found success at American University (AU), where a major landmark agreement was made in late January between AU workers and Bon Appétit Management Company that achieves all major upgrades the workers sought – including the assurances of whistleblower protections.