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‘Unforeseen Circumstances’ Cause Dining Facility Closures

by Natalie Dest and Angela Fortuna

The Hilltop Café and Social Services Grab and Go in the Social Sciences Building were closed on Monday, due to “unforeseen circumstances,” according to an email sent to students Monday morning.

A member of a Facebook group for employees shared a post from Sodexo management indicating 46 employees called out of work Monday, but management refused to confirm or provide a comment to The Recorder.

The reasoning behind the dining service closures was also referred to as an “unexpected Work Action by our [Sodexo’s] Dining Service Workers,” according to a sign posted in front of Memorial Hall on Monday.

“I believe that ‘unforeseen circumstances’ is really a strike by our food service union. Sodexo employees have been working without a contract for many months and their employer is refusing to provide them with affordable health insurance,” Aram Ayalon, professor in Educational Leadership, Policy and Instructional Technology, said.

At this time, UNITE HERE Local 217, which consists of Sodexo allies across Connecticut, refused to comment on the reasoning behind the sudden closures of Hilltop Café and Social Sciences Grab and Go.

Members of UNITE HERE Local 217 are still battling in negotiations against Quality Services of Life for paid health insurance and insured sick days.

These are all issues employees have been trying to settle since April of 2017.

“We really need the students support because if we lose our health insurance, it’s not just our health insurance, we’re losing sick days, [too]. We would be losing health insurance that we fought 30 years for,” Samantha Cedeno, Central Connecticut State University Sodexo worker, said.

UNITED HERE Local 217, which is what all CCSU Sodexo workers are a member of,  represents food service employees not only in affiliation with CCSU, but on seven other college campuses as well.

For Cedeno and other Sodexo workers at CCSU, having students’ support is essential to their fight against a cut in pay and health coverage.

“We really need the support of the students and faculty because other than those in our union, we don’t have the support of the school or the students right now, and we would really like to get that support up because essentially, the students are the customers,” Cedeno said.

CCSU Sodexo employees want to see students actively partake in their fight by boycotting the university’s dining services, such as refusing to use flex dollars, not going to the on-campus Starbucks and refusing to eat at both dining halls, according to Cedeno.

“Students need to know how hard the cafeteria workers work. The people who employ them [Sodexo], are greedy and are after their health care benefits,” Joseph Cox, CCSU student said. “Students need to be allies with the cafeteria workers and help fight for the health insurance they [employees] have been fighting decades for.”

The university refused to allow CCSU Sodexo employees to hold an action in the Student Center Circle on Nov. 1 for workers to obtain student signatures for their petition against cutting their benefits. So, Sodexo employees held their event as a “protest,” to meet Central’s request.

“We were supposed to be handing out petitions to get CCSU students to sign them to bring back to the university to show that students were supporting us, and show how many people care about our health insurance and sick days. In every way possible, they [Central] denied us,” Cedeno said. “When we talked to them [Central], they say ‘we’re unbiased, we’re not getting involved, we’re keeping hands off.’ They’re keeping hands off, but also preventing us from getting the students’ support. That doesn’t seem unbiased to me.”

Sodexo employees will present the signatures they collected to President Dr. Zulma Toro at last week’s rally on Nov. 16. Cedeno said they would really appreciate university support.

“I believe we should show our support to our fellow food service employees who serve us well and deserve good benefits and pay,” Ayalon said.

At this time, the reasoning behind the dining service closings has not been confirmed.