Student Dining Employee Strikes Amid Retention Concerns

Lianna Brown ’22, Associate News Editor

Carson Butler ’22 has gone on strike from working in dining services because of low wages and limited shift call-offs. Other student dining workers feel pressure after winter break to make up for the usual loss of student workers during that time.  

“The minimum wage is often discussed in terms of a living wage,” wrote Butler in a statement to The Dickinsonian, “Considering how Dickinson accepts students from all across the country -and the world- they should take into account the moral[e] hit students face when you offer them lower wages than their home and shove them [in] grease[-]filled kitchens.” 

Butler is “in the process of drafting up a legal petition in order to establish a union for Dickinson dining,” to combat some of the issues that come with working in dining services.

“Many students don’t know that this is an option that they can take. It is illegal to fire -or enact any disciplinary action- against someone for exercising their lawful right to strike. I encourage the entirety of Dickinson dining services’ workforce to join the strike,” Butler said. 

According to a document provided by Assistant Director of Student Employment Heather Dunn,  there was a decrease from 838 to 828 individual workers in dining services from the fall to spring semester this year. In the 2017-2018 school year, there was a decrease from 923 to 905 workers in dining services. 

“There are usually about 20 to 25 students who leave our employment between fall and spring semesters for a variety of reasons. The numbers remain relatively constant each year,” Errol Huffman, director of dining services said.

Despite this change in number of workers from fall to spring semester, Dunn said, “from an anecdotal perspective, I have not received complaints or concerns about student retention in Dining Services this semester.”

While this is the case for Dunn, student supervisors in the dining hall have noticed the decrease in workers from the fall semester to the spring semester.

“I feel like the retention of student workers from fall to spring is very bad,” Trung Nguyen ’19, a student supervisor in the dining hall, wrote in a statement. “A lot of students dropped the job in the caf after one semester, many of which left after a week of work. This has a negative effect on my job as a blue shirt because either I have less red shirts to work with or I have to train new ones that I get which is time consuming.”

Jackie Greger ’22, used to work in the Quarry but quit because “I worked in the evenings so I spent all afternoon doing homework and felt like I was missing club meetings and Clarke Forum talks that sounded interesting that were in evenings.”

The retention rates of student workers comes from both blue shirts and red shirts. According to Mason McIntyre ’22, a former dining hall employee, one of his blue shirts left during a shift in the dish room. “After they left, we would have a new blue shirt, sometimes, and other times we wouldn’t have a blue shirt at all,” McIntyre said.