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NU food service workers demand higher pay

Union and food service vendor that employs the workers have been in talks for a new contract since 2019.

Veronica Reyes has not had a raise since 2019. A cashier and food line employee in a Northwestern dining hall, she says she makes $14.05 per hour after 11 years on the job.

“We’re fighting here to see if we can get a living wage,” Reyes said this afternoon.

Reyes was one of about 100 Northwestern food and conference center employees who rallied in front of the campus entrance at Chicago Avenue and Sheridan Road.

“I have two kids,” she said. “How can I provide for them” and save for college on $14.05 an hour?, she asked.

According to Reyes’ union, Unite Here Local 1, an hourly wage of double that is needed as fair pay for a single parent with one child in Cook County.

Unite Here represents about 400 Northwestern food service and conference center workers. Most of them were laid off for part of the coronavirus pandemic, as dining halls and other locations that served food on campus closed. Workers have now been recalled as facilities reopened.

The employees do not work directly for the university, but rather for the food services contractor, Compass Group, a large international vendor with U.S headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina, and world headquarters in London.

The company’s website says it has 280,000 employees in North America, and revenue in 2019 of $20.1 billion.

Georgene Sardis, marketing director for Compass at NU, told Evanston Now that Compass continues to honor wages and other conditions of employment which Unite Here negotiated with prior dining vendors.

She said “For over two years, we have attempted to negotiate with Local 1 to reach a new agreement for our associates.”

Sardis said the company offered to meet with the union on 24 dates during the next two months, but “the union rejected those dates.”

She said Compass hopes Local 1 will return to the table “so we can reach a fair and equitable agreement.”

Local 1 spokesperson Elliott Maller said the two sides have been negotiating since 2019 when the contract ran out, and there will be more talks.

The company blames the union for a lack of progress. Victoria Reyes says “the company doesn’t want to give us anything.”

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