Chartwells workers speak out against managers

Chartwells workers speak out against managers

By Taylor Dobbs, News Staff

News Staff Photo/Dan Pagliaroli

Some Chartwells employees said they were thrilled with the outpouring of student support at a speak out event last week where more than 400 students, employees and other supporters came to hear workers share their experiences.

“You guys are the reason that I love my job,” Chartwells employee Angela Bello said in front of an audience of more than 100 in a classroom in the Behrakis Health Sciences Center. More students watched a live stream of the meeting from two upstairs classrooms. The meeting was also streamed online to two full classrooms on the third floor of the building.

Bello, who has worked at Stetson East for four years, has emerged as one of the leaders of the movement to unionize. Workers brought their efforts into the public eye on March 15 when they marched to deliver a petition to university administrators.

At the speak out event last week, more than 12 workers came forward to share stories alleging abuses by Chartwells managers at Northeastern.

Kristine Andrews, communications manager at Chartwells Higher Education Dining Services, did not respond to questions for this story.

Claire Lewis, president of Northeastern’s Progressive Student Alliance and a middler international affairs major, said she first got involved with the workers as a freshman teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) classes to some employees. The classes were organized by Northeastern University Teaching English Language and Literacy Skills (NUTells), a program through which students teach cafeteria workers who don’t speak English the basic skills needed for the workplace.

Through the personal relationships she formed as a teacher with NUTells, Lewis said she learned more about the workers’ issues.

“We would go out to eat, we would chat about our families and our lives, and that’s where the bonds and the relationships really started,” she said.

Eventually, Lewis said she became aware of the workers’ problems in the workplace. She and some other students began visiting the workers they knew at their homes to talk about the issues.

“I’ve been working on this campaign for about eight months,” Lewis sad. “It was underground previously and very few people knew about it.”

The workers waited until they had formed a large enough group to go public, Lewis said. On March 15, the petition they delivered to Senior Vice President of External Affairs Michael Armini had signatures from 293 workers, roughly 75 percent of all Chartwells employees at Northeastern.

But student support began before that. Lewis and other students involved with the workers began to reach out to other student groups to raise awareness and gather support.

Alan West-Duran, a professor of Latin American studies, also became involved with the group early on. West-Duran and a small group of professors have joined in support of the workers and are hoping their influence will help to facilitate a conversation with university administrators.

“I knew there was stuff kind of happening, but I didn’t have a lot of details,” he said. “I went to one of the meetings in early March and, I found out what other professors had been involved in it. They were people I knew and respected so I figured ‘hey, [I’ll join them.]’”

Ultimately, student supporters’ goal is making sure the workers feel like they are part of the Northeastern community, Lewis said.

Around 40 students involved with Huskies Organizing With Labor (HOWL) visited workers during their breaks Wednesday to bring them a cake decorated with “Si se puede,” Spanish for “Yes, we can.”

“We’re just trying to create a sense of community with students and workers,” Lewis said. “What better way to do that than eat cake together?”

A Chartwells employee who works in the Curry Student Center Pizza Hut and Taco Bell Express location shared his story with Student Government Association (SGA) senators Monday night, urging them to take action against the mistreatment of cafeteria and food service workers at Northeastern.

Dylan O’Sullivan, an SGA senator and member of the Progressive Student Alliance, presented a Sense of the Senate, detailing the SGA’s position on the issue. The document will be voted on next week.

“This is not the Northeastern that I’m proud of,” said SGA’s Vice President of Student Affairs Jonas Edwards-Jenks. “We should hold those in charge and those in the administration accountable.”

Others agreed. Nick Naraghi, a senator and candidate for executive vice president, said, “The Chartwells workers who we deal with on a daily basis really care about us as students. This is our chance to show we care about them.”

Leave a Reply