A petition began circulating today against Columbia Dining, on account of its “arbitrary and racist policies,” co-written by Student Worker Solidarity (SWS) and Columbia Dining Workers. SWS and the dining workers state that they are not allowed to speak Spanish in front of students, nor eat in the Butler lounge during their breaks. These rules are not presently public, an issue with which those petitioning too take issue.

The petition cites a timeline of events, as follows:

Dining Workers orientation: August, 2013 – Vicki Dunn, executive director of Columbia Dining prohibits workers from:

– speaking in Spanish in the presence of students

– sitting at tables in Butler lounge to eat on their break, and must eat in a nearby closet

Dunn claimed both of these rules stemmed from student complaints about dining hall workers speaking in Spanish and taking up table space, erroneously implying that workers should not be sitting during their legally contracted breaks.

Since August workers have found Dunn and Columbia manager Hazel Clark standing behind the cafe attempting to catch workers speaking Spanish.

Early April, 2015 – Hazel Clark tells Butler lounge workers that a student complained about trash being kept outside in the lounge area. Responding to this complaint, Clark ordered that workers move the trash to the closet, where they were also expected to sit when eating.

April 13, 2015 – SWS members send email to Vicki Dunn expressing concern about workers eating in the closet, where the trash was kept and schedule meeting to discuss the issue. In response to the email, Dunn emails Butler Lounge management rescinding the rule that workers should eat in the closet.

April 15 – SWS members meet with Columbia dining administration, who claim not to know about the closet rule. They do not confirm or deny the prohibition on speaking Spanish, but cite student complaints in justifying rules against workers talking amongst themselves.

And their demands, also from the petition:

1. Columbia dining appears to have temporarily reversed the closet rule, but continue to discriminate against workers for speaking Spanish. This must cease immediately.

2. We as students demand that Columbia administration stop using individual student complaints to justify racist and degrading policies such as the prohibition of specific languages and the relegation of workers to cramped and unsanitary spaces.

“This shouldn’t be happening in student’s names, own your own decision, don’t try to pin this on students” – Anonymous Columbia Dining Worker

3. Workers ask that from now on, all new workplace policies be written down, publicly visible, and negotiated with their unions so as to prevent continued abuses.

“If it wasn’t for us, they wouldn’t be raking in thousands of dollars a day from Columbia Dining Services. They need to treat us differently” – Another anonymous Columbia Dining Worker