Students Organizing for Labor Rights marches for Northwestern maintenance staff


Nicole Markus/Daily Senior Staffer

SOLR members hang banners with slogans such as “Feed your workers” during the march Friday.

Nicole Markus, Social Media Editor

Students Organizing for Labor Rights hosted a march across campus Friday to advocate for Northwestern maintenance technicians who lost access to free dining hall meals.

SESP senior Neva Legallet said staff informed SOLR this week that their access to dining halls, which they had earlier in the quarter and in previous years, was recently removed. Maintenance staff must now pay $16 per meal, Legallet said.

“Sixteen dollars is an absurd amount to pay for any meal,” Legallet said. “They work in these dorms, they make these dorms function, (they) should be able to access every part of it, including the meals.”

About 15 students marched down Sheridan Road, stopping at the Residential Services building to deliver their demands and hang signs on the fences of Deering Meadow. Signs read, “SOLR DEMANDS MEALS FOR MAINTENANCE STAFF” and “KEEP YOUR COMMUNITY FED.”

Some participants in the march criticized the University and Compass Group, NU’s food service provider, for their roles in removing the dining access.

“The idea that this wealthy institution that promotes itself as having liberal ideas would be treating (the staff) poorly, degrading them and not allowing them to have a warm meal is deplorable and ridiculous,” SOLR member and Ph.D. student Gabriel said. 

On Nov. 15, SOLR released a petition demanding the University reinstate access to free meals for maintenance staff, lengthen break times and designate a spot for them to eat and take breaks. As of Sunday night, the petition had more than 1,000 signatures.

The petition also noted that NU’s weekly food waste is 3.6 tons. SOLR asked the University to reevaluate why some of this food was not going toward feeding the maintenance staff.

“Time and time again, Northwestern University and its subcontractors have demonstrated how little they actually care about the campus workers who make this university function,” the petition said. “The maintenance staff keeps campus buildings clean and livable, yet Northwestern University and Compass Group deny them access to dining halls, a blatant cruelty which we strongly condemn.” 

SOLR also called on NU to equip break spaces for maintenance workers with sinks, refrigerators and microwaves. The demands also included longer break times so maintenance staff have the necessary amount of time to eat.

After delivering the petition, SOLR asked that Residential Services respond before Thanksgiving break begins Wednesday so maintenance staff regain access to free dining hall food as soon as possible.

“It’s as of this week that managers have stopped letting that happen, so this doesn’t seem like something that needs a lot of bureaucratic fixes,” Legallet said. “I would hope that it’s resolved quickly.”

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