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Petition Against Columbia Dining By SWS And Dining Staff

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

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  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous This is no surprise. Dunn has been on everyones radar for a while for being discriminatory. When I read this, I did not hesitate to believe it. She has been know to lie about anything and everything to steal our money and treat people like crap, students and staff.

  • seriously? says:

    @seriously? If we are going to start banning languages, how about the huge number of Koreans and Chinese students who speak their native languages around campus? I can complain and say these students make my experience on campus uncomfortable and distracting. What then Columbia admin?

    Seriously, get your heads out of your asses and recognize that staff members are people too (and the overly privileged racist shit heads who complained about people speaking Spanish). I consider their service pretty awesome as well as the nicest people. So what if they want to speak with each other in Spanish when things slow down? Its not hurting anyone. Its not like they are speaking to the students in Spanish unless the student initiates it.

    Seriously Columbia, you want to brag about so much shit, but you can’t even treat your staff right, keep your students fed, have a proper gender misconduct code, nor listen and consider what the student body has to say about issues that directly affect them.

  • CC'16 says:

    @CC'16 Leave dining alone! It’s a service oriented business and I think it’s a lot like disney world. You wouldn’t want the cast members breaking out of character to talk among themselves, and similarly dining staff should make service a priority. Nothing is afoul. SWS prides itself on finding problems where there are none.

    1. LSS says:

      @LSS This is a troll comment, right? “Dining services is a lot like Disney World”.. Jesus H. Christ on a bicycle. Dining services workers aren’t pretending to be a character to amuse you and your fellow students. They are employees working a job. As a previous comment pointed out, the EEOC generally holds that English-only workplace policies are discriminatory and illegal.

      And WTF does workers speaking Spanish to each other have to do with not “making service a priority”? Those are two completely separate issues.

      If you can’t see why not treating workers like human beings is a problem, then you – and your sense of entitlement – are the problem. Grow up.

    2. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous i dunno bruh i’d rather the people handling my food understood each other as well as possible

  • CU dining misses the mark says:

    @CU dining misses the mark having employees eat and take breaks in a break room is a normal thing to do at any service job; however, the university should provide employees legitimate break rooms, not a storage closet.

    if employees are talking too much with eachother and it’s interfering with customer service then that’s a problem– when you’re working at a cafe there’s an expectation to be attentive to the customer; however, cutting out Spanish is the wrong way to address this.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Why do these students listen to workers complaints more than fellow students’?

  • ridiculous says:

    @ridiculous That staff can’t speak a language common to them between each other is honestly ridiculous. And nine times out of ten, when I see staff speaking to students in Spanish, it’s because the students initiate it!! I haven’t seen a single occasion where the staff’s speaking Spanish was at all disrespectful or creating a hostile/uncomfortable environment.

    And to the students who supposedly felt “uncomfortable”: we are on a multi-lingual campus. There are students who speak non-English languages all the time all over campus. And in dining halls. Should we start preventing them from speaking their languages too?

  • Ron Huett says:

    @Ron Huett What’s “a Hispanic”? Is that like “a black”?

    The term Hispanic refers to Spanish-speaking people or culture and does not relate to race … so your comment is not only factually incorrect “anon,” it’s incoherent.

  • anon says:

    @anon It’s not racist to expect that workers speak a language that 100% of Columbia students understand. Disallowing the Spanish language in the workplace is not the same as disallowing Hispanics in the workplace (real racism).

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous (1) I believe this refers to the workers speaking Spanish to each other, not to the students.

      (2) Sure, it might not be a category of discrimination protected by equal opportunity employment laws. Doesn’t mean it’s ethical. Recall that most people thought it was racist when, in the 1970s(?), some California k12 schools tried to force kids to speak English during recess.

      1. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous I don’t think it’s right, but it’s not racist.

      2. actually says:

        @actually English-only on the workplace policies are often recognized as discriminatory violations of labor law per the EEOC:

  • Unamused says:

    @Unamused If your racist arrogance is so petty that you feel the need to report workers for speaking Spanish, you are the worst sort of human being.

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