Students protest over new cost of dining worker shift meals

Organizers gathered in the Hamilton Hall dining area. (Andy Field/Emerald)

University of Oregon student organizers demanded free shift meals for student dining workers and protested the cost increase of their meals on Wednesday in the Hamilton Hall dining area.

Fifteen students, mostly from the Student Labor Action Project (SLAP) gathered around 6 p.m. The student organizers protested the policy requiring student workers to pay $3 in order to receive five points toward their meals. Prior to the 2016-2017 school year, meals for student dining employees were free. And during fall term, student workers paid $1 for five points.

“There’s nothing preventing them from continuing the price,” said Martin Nelson-Harrington, a SLAP member.

In an interview with the Emerald from November, Director of Food Services Tom Driscoll said that student dining hall worker shift meals had previously been subsidized by the room and board costs of students living in dorms. He also indicated that when shift meals were free, they only had access to a limited selection of food.

Last spring, university administration announced plans to cut shift meals for both student and non-student dining staff. According to SLAP members, during meetings with both SLAP and the Service Employees International Union, administration — including Driscoll and Michael Griffel, university housing director — administrators claimed that they would keep meals free, reversing the original change.

During the summer, the administrators announced that, although they would maintain free meals for non-student workers, student workers would pay for meals.

“It’s kind of a bummer. Since it is minimum wage and it is, generally speaking, below 20 hours, the whole idea of a shift meal was one of the bigger draws in the first place,” said UO sophomore and Hamilton dining employee Chris McGinn.

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