Following a one-day strike earlier this month, cafeteria workers at Chicago State University (CSU) will resume talks with a local food service contractor who they say suspended negotiations before reaching a new contract agreement.
But even though talks will continue, workers are not certain they will have jobs in the New Year.
“Earlier this year, dining hall workers unionized in an effort to bring stability and end poverty wages of $8.25 an hour paid to food service employees at the University,” said Carly Karmel of UNITE HERE, Local 1, which represents approximately 15,000 hospitality and casino workers in the Chicago area and Northwest Indiana.
Chicago State University cafeteria workers went on strike to press food service contractor, Thompson Hospitality to come (back) to the negotiating table and settle their first contract offer. It’s the first strike of university cafeteria workers in Chicago, said Karmel.
While the union has been in contract negotiations with Thompson Hospitality since June, Thompson allegedly has cancelled scheduled meetings twice. The company’s last meeting with the union was on October 16.
On Dec. 3, CSU cafeteria workers filed unfair labor practice charges against Virginia-based, Thompson Hospitality, for allegedly, repeatedly cancelling negotiations and failing to bargain in good faith.
A Thompson official on Dec. 4 allegedly announced to CSU dining hall workers that (Thompson) may stop providing food service next year at the university due to a financial dispute with CSU, leaving the jobs of approximately 50 dining hall workers and the future of Thompson Hospitality and CSU’s partnership hanging in the balance.
The contract between Thompson and CSU is set to expire June 2014.
“Thompson Hospitality told workers that the company has submitted to CSU a 30-day notice to terminate the contract due to unfulfilled financial obligations,” Karmel said.
Thompson Hospitality had no comment.
“I take pride in my work and want to serve good, quality food to students,” said Candace Cain who has worked in the cafeteria for two years.” “It breaks my heart that the company has forced us into this position. I need my job to survive, to feed my daughter,” Cain said. “It’s the holidays. The University must resolve this problem.”
Food service at CSU cafeterias is paid for by students. All students living in a traditional residence hall on campus are required to purchase a meal plan.
“I already paid for my meal plan for next semester,” said Dominoe Carmona, a sophomore at CSU. “With Thompson Hospitality saying they will leave in 30 days due to unpaid financial obligations, what I want to know from CSU is, where is my money going?”
Thompson Hospitality was started in 1992 with the purchase of thirty-one Bob’s Big Boy restaurants that were converted to Shoney’s restaurants and several other proprietary restaurant concepts.
The company’s interests was expanded into the contract food service arena, and in 1997, created Thompson Hospitality Services, LLC by forging a partnership with Compass Group, the world’s largest food service company.
Chicago State University would only say the workers were not part of a union and they were just picketing.