NU Dining workers, students march for fair wages, better working conditions


Jeffrey Wang/The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern Dining cook Melvin Davis addresses students and food service employees about the goals of their demonstration. Davis and other food service employees met with Erich Geiger, district manager for NU Dining, about improving work conditions.

Matthew Choi, Assistant Campus Editor

Students joined a march down Sheridan Road on Friday to demand better treatment for Northwestern food service workers.

The rally, organized by the food service workers and attended by more than 80 people, began at The Arch and continued along Sheridan to Haven Street, where workers talked about their demands with Erich Geiger, district manager for Northwestern Dining.

NU food service workers, who are contracted by the food distribution company Sodexo, are negotiating for the ability to work 40 hours per week, a more manageable workload, fair raises and more respect, Melvin Davis, a cook with NU Dining, told The Daily.

Geiger declined to comment as negotiations continue.

Employees currently work 37.5 hours without the possibility to work overtime, Davis said. Employees are understaffed and overworked, according to a petition written by student activists in November that advocated for better working conditions.

“We will continue to fight for a fair contract,” Davis told The Daily. “We will continue to fight for a fair raise and continue to fight for our 40 hours and continue to fight for decent workloads.”

Video by Bailey Williams/Daily Senior Staffer

The results of the negotiation with Geiger, which took place outdoors on the sidewalk on Haven Street, were inconclusive, Davis said.

“(Geiger is) saying we have too much on the table,” Davis said “He’s basically saying as soon as we begin to take something off the table, then we can get our proposal down.”

They expect to renegotiate on Feb. 22, Davis said.

“On that day, hopefully we will have something better than what they offer now,” he said.

The march was also a time for NU students to express support for NU Dining workers. Unified under common chants of “What do we want? Respect! When do we want it? Now!”, workers and students hugged and marched together.

“We’re here for you guys, so thank you for being here for us,” said an employee with NU Dining present at the event.  

The march follows a similar protest during Fall Quarter when more than 50 students delivered a petition to Sodexo and University administrators, including Julie Payne-Kirchmeier, associate vice president for student affairs. That petition, which was signed by more than 1,000 people, also criticized alleged disrespectful behavior from Sodexo supervisors toward dining staff.

Communication sophomore Samuel Shapiro expressed his support for dining staff, many of whom he now knows personally, he said.

“I have tons of respect for the work these men and women do on our behalf,” Shapiro said. “But I don’t think Sodexo does.”

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