UOPD stop student labor activists handing free pizza to dining hall employees

Update (Feb. 10, 2017 2:58 p.m.): This article has been updated with a statement from the UOPD on why the protesters were removed, and the department that made the complaint. 

University of Oregon police stopped students from handing out free pizza to dining hall workers on Wednesday. The students were protesting the administration’s recent decision to stop giving workers free shift meals, beginning with the 2016-17 school year.

Around 2 p.m., the UO Student Labor Action Project set a booth outside Hamilton Hall cafeteria, handing free pizza to dining workers between and after their shifts. Members of SLAP asked student workers to sign a petition calling for the university to reverse its shift meal policy.

Rio Lehman, SLAP co-director, said that an hour later police told students to leave, responding to a complaint from UO Catering and Conference Services that they did not have a permit.

UOPD Communications Director Kelly McIver said that SLAP did not seek permission from the university to set up a tent outside the dining hall, or serve food.

“The UOPD officer who had been called did his best to help the group learn how they could be in compliance, and found a name and number of a staff member in Catering and Conference Services with whom they could discuss properly securing a space, and properly following the university policies on food distribution,” McIver said.

During fall term, dining hall workers were required to pay $1 for five points — UO’s dining hall currency — to spend on food. The price of five meal points has since increased to $3 for five meal points.

During an interview with the Emerald in November, Director of Food Services Tom Driscoll said that students used to pay for student workers’ shift meals through room-and-board fees. Driscoll said that UO housing felt it would be fairer for student workers to pay for their shift meals.

“Student dollars, student tuition, student housing money, in some end or another, are paying peoples’ wages,” said Lehman. “But that doesn’t change the fact that it is a social responsibility to fairly compensate our workers.”

Lehman says that administrators went ahead with the plan to have dining workers pay for their meals without the consent of student workers. He said that in spring, administrators met with dining hall workers and announced the plan. Despite promising not to move forward with the proposed plan during the meeting, administrators backed down on their promise during the summer, Lehman said.

In January, students held banners in Hamilton Hall protesting the change.

On Feb. 8, SLAP advocates held call-ins to Michael Griffel, who heads the housing department, demanding that free shift meals be reinstated for all dining employees. While serving free pizza, SLAP provided Griffel’s number along with a script for callers to read.

“Cutting costs on the backs of your lowest paid workers is unacceptable and shameful. I urge you to reinstate free shift meals for all dining staff,” it read.

UO junior Luke Schwedler works as a dining hall employee. He stopped by SLAP’s booth for some pizza.

“I will remain respectful as a worker regardless,” Schwedler said. “But we know housing costs, tuition costs are jumping, and so this is an excellent opportunity to have a discussion about it, and this is one issue among many.”

SLAP’s funds for the pizza came from student tuition, within the incidental fee. The funds were allocated by the ASUO for purposes of providing food for their events.

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Andrew Field

Andrew Field

Former Japan Times intern. Daily Emerald reporter and FishDuck editor. Tokyo-Singapore-Houston-Eugene, but Oregonian forever. West Ham United and Portland Timbers fan.

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