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Dining Staff Shortages Cause Closures and Questions

Written by Brian Boon

The Northstar Cafe (the pub) is currently operating at limited hours due to the lack of temporary workers who returned to campus. Many part-time employees have decided to work at companies in the surrounding area, which has forced Dining Services to stop serving dinner at the Northstar Cafe.

Companies in the area, such as Taco Bell and McDonald’s, offer part-time employees $11-$12 per hour, while SLU offers non-student temporary workers minimum wage ($9.70). The lack of temporary workers has meant that over 50 shifts at Dana are unaccounted for, placing a strain on other part-time and full-time employees.

In an attempt to attract more workers, St. Lawrence will raise the current wage for temporary workers from $9.40 to $10.40 per hour. However, due to an initiative signed by New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, the minimum wage will be raised regardless on December 31, 2017 to $10.40. After the new minimum wage is enacted, SLU will not be able to raise wages for temporary workers, according to Cindy Atkins, director of dining services.

St. Lawrence also does not employ as many student workers as SUNY Canton or Potsdam, which “has also contributed to the lack of temporary workers” according to Atkins. Students from SUNY Canton are interested in commuting to SLU to work in dining services to help alleviate the workload.

Atkins has worked at SLU for over 28 years, but has never witnessed a situation where a dining option was forced to close for part of the day due to staff shortages. A number of permanent workers and managers have also resigned or retired before the beginning of this semester, placing another burden on dining services.

Over the next couple of weeks, dining services will be interviewing candidates and hiring temporary workers to fill the staff void. Atkins expects the Northstar Cafe to return to normal operational hours in the next couple of weeks or, by the latest, October 1.

In addition to a lack of temporary dining workers on campus, full-time dining union employees are re-negotiating their contracts with the SLU administration. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and Local 200United is a joint union that represents many workers in the public and private sector in the upstate New York region.

Around campus, the SEIU has posted flyers, encouraging students to wear purple on Thursdays in support of full-time dining workers. The union believes that SLU is trying to take away “Wellness Days,” increase the cost of healthcare, and argue that the proposed wage increase is un-livable. Atkins noted that the SLU administration will not be taking away “Wellness Days,” and that the cost of healthcare is increasing for everyone, not just union workers. Next Wednesday, the St. Lawrence administration will sit down with representatives of the SEIU and Local 200United union to re-negotiate their contract.

About the author

Brian Boon