A petition started by University of Connecticut Dining Services student workers in response to the announcement that workers would not be paid for normally-worked hours between the weeks of March 22 through April 5 now has 1,260 signatures since its creation last week.
The petition, started by sixth-semester general studies major Robyn Ventura-Chavez, came after notification from the university that classes would be moved online for the remainder of the spring semester, with limited operations taking place on-campus.
“COVID-19 has left many University of Connecticut students, who rely on their on-campus job(s) for income, without work. UConn Dining Services, the largest employer of students on campus, was authorized by the university to pay their student workers for their regularly scheduled hours from March 22, 2020 through April 5, 2020,” the petition said. “However, UConn Dining Services decided not to pay students their regular hours for the two weeks between March 22, 2020 through April 5, 2020.”
Ventura-Chavez, along with other dining service student workers, learned of the decision from a student manager at Whitney Dining Hall.
“Originally, student workers didn’t get the announcement,” Ventura-Chavez said. “We had to be told by our student management staff. So I got the announcement through the student manager at Whitney, and when he told us, he was very upset.”
Ventura-Chavez decided they wanted to help by starting a petition on behalf of the workers.
“So the petition was really a decision I made on my own within the same day that we got the announcement from the student management at Whitney,” Ventura-Chavez said. “I knew that the very least I could do to help was starting a petition or starting something small, and if other people were on board as well, then I knew that something bigger could be done.”
Dawn Schmidt, a sixth-semester management information systems major and student manager, helped Ventura-Chavez with the petition.
“After working almost full time (35-40 hours per week while also being a full time student) in this department, I was angry and frustrated that the department decided to stab me in the back once again,” Schmidt said. “I started writing a petition of my own, and while I was doing this, I came across Robyn’s petition. I contacted them to give them more information based on what I knew at that time.”
A reminder for students residing on campus and picking up meals from South Dining Hall. We appreciate your cooperation with our guidelines during this time so that we may keep everyone healthy and safe. pic.twitter.com/tqQYE5EDul
— UConnDiningServices (@UConndining) March 23, 2020
Schmidt said that while student workers are being allowed to use sick time, workers rarely have compiled enough sick time to cover the two-week period in which they will not be getting paid normally.
“Many of my students have immense financial responsibilities such as helping their parents with bills, paying their own rent, paying for their own school, paying for food, etc.,” Schmidt said. “With such an uncertain time, and with most businesses being closed, it will likely be difficult for them to find other work.”
Noah Morin, an eighth-semester management major and another student manager that helped create the petition, was frustrated by UConn’s decision not to pay their student dining workers for the two-week period, as well.
“No other place is hiring, and as students, many of us don’t even qualify for unemployment. We were given the option to use sick time if we have it, which very few people do as you have to work 680 hours prior to earning it and you can only use 40 hours in an entire calendar year no matter how much you have earned,” Morin said. “It is a frustrating and confusing time for everyone, but they haven’t done anything to show they care about their employees.”
Ventura-Chavez said that while they hope they will get a response from UConn, they have not received one yet.
“I’m not confident that UConn will do anything unless we escalate it,” Ventura-Chavez said.
When reached for comment, Dennis Pierce, the executive director of Dining Services, said “at the present time there is still discussion going on regarding this matter.” He believes the university will release a statement once a final decision is reached.
Amanda Kilyk is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached at email@example.com.