SOLR releases petition calling on Compass to honor its contract with workers


Daily file photo by Seeger Gray

A worker in Allison Dining Hall. A Students Organizing for Labor Rights petition says Compass Group has failed to honor their recent contract.

Isabel Funk and Maia Pandey

Students Organizing for Labor Rights publicized a petition Monday advocating for Northwestern and its food service provider, Compass Group, to respect dining and service workers and honor the contract they ratified in October 2021.

According to the petition, managers have made scheduling changes that increase worker responsibilities and have provided workers late notice of scheduling shifts. The workers’ contract stipulates they must be given four days’ notice of scheduling changes, but because this has not been respected, the lack of communication has led to workers missing shifts or being late, the petition said. As of 6 p.m. Monday, about 200 NU community members have signed the petition.

“Over the course of the pandemic, neither Northwestern University nor Compass Group genuinely listened to service workers’ concerns until Compass workers voted to strike,” the petition said. “Workers should not have to threaten labor actions, putting themselves at risk, to be heard.” 

Valentina Espinosa, a housekeeper at the James Allen Center, said rather than allowing staff to work their full 40 hours, Compass brings in temporary workers, and managers sometimes do the employees’ work. She said these temporary workers don’t always know how to do the job right, leaving tasks unfinished because Compass wanted to cut permanent employees’ hours.

“The main problem with not having enough employees right now is that some employees are taking on the job of more than one person,” Espinosa said through a translator. “One person is doing the job of like two or three.”

Compass also does not respect seniority with regard to overtime and working hours, Espinosa said. According to the workers’ new contract, Compass is required to offer overtime to workers in order of seniority, but the petition states Compass has ignored those who do want to work overtime while forcing overtime on those who don’t. 

The new Compass contract stipulates that workers are provided one free, hot meal during shifts, according to the petition. However, the petition states that workers are routinely receiving “meager portions, unbalanced meals, or nothing at all.” Workers also have sometimes received the same food for several days — meals that are more likely to be leftovers that are spoiled and unhealthy, the petition states.

Compass did not respond to a request for comment.

Along with the center staff, SOLR has heard about staffing shortages from workers at the Kellogg Global Hub and campus dining halls, according to the petition. Medill senior Harrison Tremarello, a SOLR organizer and former Daily staffer, said the group decided to issue a petition after speaking to workers across campus and realizing these were recurring issues. 

“(Workers) told us there were some issues with the contract that might be a violation of the contract,” Tremarello said. “But even besides the contract, managers were definitely not taking into consideration workers’ feedback.” 

Compass workers are represented through UNITE HERE Local 1. Espinosa, who is a union shop steward, also said Compass has been ignoring her and the other workers.

Espinosa and other shop stewards are workers who represent other employees for the union, but rather than working with them, Compass has focused on contacting union headquarters.

“I have to be there for my coworkers in certain cases, when we’re talking to managers or supervisors,” Espinosa said. “They say they’ll work on the problem, but they never actually get to working on the problem.”

Given the yearslong struggle to regain their new contract, Tremarello said SOLR will continue to push Compass toward honoring its agreement.

Though workers are subcontracted through Compass, it’s important to note they are a “major part” of the NU community, Tremarello added.

“The University and Compass really should be taking into consideration what service workers are saying because they’re the ones who make this campus run,” he said. “By taking their concerns into account, it makes it better for everyone.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @isabeldfunk

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @maiapandey

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