Dear Stanford Community Members,
Thank you for signing the petition in support of the Row house chefs and hashers. Thanks to you and over 1,400 other Stanford community members, Dean Golder and other administrators met with Stanford Labor Action Coalition about the situation. Sadly, they refused to reinstate the workers’ holiday bonuses or to address any of the other grievances raised in the petition, leaving the workers struggling to make ends meet over the holidays.
The workers’ direct employer, Student Organized Services (SOS), had to make cuts to workers’ pay after being forced by Residential Education (ResEd) and Business Affairs, who contract SOS, to compete with anti-worker subcontractors for the provision of Row kitchen staff.For decades, SOS uniquely operated as the sole provider of labor to Row houses through student-controlled house-by-house contracts managed by SOS. For the 2010-2011 academic year, Stanford rightly decided to standardize board bills to make them affordable for students on financial aid. To that end, Stanford centralized a contract with SOS through ResEd rather than through individual houses.
This centralization brought the Row board bills to the attention of Business Affairs, which directed ResEd to open the bidding for the provision of these services to other companies in the 2011-2012 academic year in order to cut costs. According to Stanford administrators, the competitive bidders included SOS and the notoriously anti-worker Sodexo and B&G Foods corporations. Sodexo, for example, has been boycotted by at least 9 universities for its anti-worker practices and recently settled a lawsuit with the State of New York for cheating poor public schools out of the reduced-lunch discounts given by food suppliers, prompting investigations in three other states. We believe that students don’t want their food provided by such underhanded, immoral corporations, and that we’d like to keep local operations controlled by student communities.
Competing with such anti-worker corporations forced SOS to cut costs at the expense of its workers. SOS’s sole owner and CEO, Nick Peters, said he had to make cuts across the board, with pay cuts averaging 6.8%, and the only raises occurring in order to comply with Stanford’s Living Wage Policy.
Further, ResEd has been acting to take centralized control over food operations away from students in many parts of campus, resulting in less and less of students’ board bills returning to them in food and labor costs. Our petition came on the heels of ResEd’s recent centralization of control over Row house budgets, resulting in late payments and missed food orders. ResEd also took centralized control over Governor’s Corner eating clubs last academic year from a non-profit, student-run corporation and contracted it away to the for-profit, privately held SOS, also resulting in late pay to workers in violation of California labor law. GovCo students objected to the changes in an op-ed, pointing to the conflict of interest in this contract: SOS CEO Nick Peters’ brother-in-law is ResEd administrator Zac Sargeant, who also formerly acted as CEO of SOS’s parent company, SEC. Dean Golder dismissed this conflict of interest, and the website attesting to these facts was quickly taken down.
Despite this, ResEd administrators assured us that all of the student board bill goes to food and food service. They speculated that a rise in food or gas prices might explain the rise in board bills. Despite the increases in food and gas costs, however, doubts abound that these rises equal $300/year per student on the Row. This is even more doubtful when considering the benefit and wage cuts. They promised, however, to send us the ResEd budget to establish with certainty the root of these differences. Students deserve to know where administration spends their money, especially if over 1,400 believe it should be spent, in part, on decent pay and treatment for the workers. We look forward to working for increased transparency of ResEd to make these voices heard.
Students deserve food that is not only good but also just. The response to our petition shows that students want community control over their food as well as fair pay and treatment for the workers who serve it, and delicious and sustainable food every day. SLAC will continue to advocate so that administration hears these voices, and we invite all of you who wish to get further involved to contact us at StanfordLaborAction@gmail.com.
Stanford Labor Action Coalition
The Stanford Labor Action Coalition acts as an advocate for all workers on Stanford’s campus, amplifying their voices and concerns through worker-student solidarity