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Students defend CulinArt employees

Pictured above is a CulinArt employee working in Entropy+. Many people on campus said that this daily interaction is valuable to their dining experience. (credit: Photo Illustration by Kristen Severson/Photo Editor and Celia Ludwinski/Assistant Pho) Pictured above is a CulinArt employee working in Entropy+. Many people on campus said that this daily interaction is valuable to their dining experience. (credit: Photo Illustration by Kristen Severson/Photo Editor and Celia Ludwinski/Assistant Pho)

The changes that have been made to dining services at Carnegie Mellon have been obvious to anyone who has a meal plan, but recently, it has been revealed that there might be some things about the new company that students can’t see.

A flyer was circulating the campus last week that suggested CulinArt is treating its employees unfairly. The flyer states that workers are accusing CulinArt of eliminating their salary contributions to their health care and pension plans and that CulinArt is refusing to honor worker seniority.

The flyer also stated that Culin-Art is proposing more contract changes that would be detrimental to employees. These changes include no first year wage increases, a dramatic increase in health care costs, and elimination of long- and short-term disability coverage and benefits.

CulinArt management was either unable or unwilling to comment on these accusations when questioned by The Tartan.

CulinArt workers refused to comment on their feelings about the situation. Many said they were worried that their jobs would be threatened if they publicly gave their opinion.

The director of Housing and Dining Services, Kim Abel, was limited in what she could discuss, although the proceedings and negotiations between CulinArt and its employees are continuing. She was able to comment on who these negotiations are affecting, however: “CulinArt employs both union and non-union staff. They are currently in negotiation with the union staff.

Union negotiations are confidential, and therefore, CulinArt is not able to provide information about any concerns being addressed during the negotiations.”

Abel added, “Housing and Dining Services has explained the negotiation process as students or staff have asked. We also continue to support the negotiating that is occurring between union employees and CulinArt.”

At this point, the campus community cannot be made aware of what is happening in these negotiations, but a concern for many students is that they are going to lose some of the food workers that they have built relationships with.

Senior directing major Tina Robinson said, “I hate to think that we could lose some of the workers. I’ve been here for a full three years, and the best part of getting a meal [is] the interaction that I get to have with the workers. They are more than workers. They have become my friends. I want to help them fight against this injustice.”

Abel said that student opinion matters in all areas of Housing and Dining Services, but “given the confidential nature of the labor negotiations, it would be difficult for a student to generate an informed opinion.”

However, the workers are calling for student support during this negotiation process. There will be a meeting for students who want to get involved. The date and location of this meeting have yet to be announced. They have also asked students to call (412) 471-0690 or to e-mail rgray@seiu32bj.org and leave a message with their name and contact information to show their support for the workers.