Photo by Basil Hassoun
Sam Wall | Editor In Chief
On Wednesday, November 8, the workers from UNBC’s Cafeteria and Tim Horton’s held a rally in the outdoor Agora courtyard to protest low wages and limited health care benefits. Despite the brisk cold, the workers held their protest signs high, surrounded by their supporters, including the UNBC Faculty Association, several students, volunteers, and other community members, equally about 40 participants. Protesters walked in two circles, with the inner circle going a different direction than the outer circle, meant to represent the core workers being supported. The rally continued on for one hour, strategically timed after the lunch rush so more employees could join on their breaks.
UNBC’s food service employees are automatically members of British Columbia’s Union for hotel and hospitality workers, Local 40. Union representatives led rally attendants in several chants, such as “Solidarity Forever,” and “20 cents won’t pay the rent.” Chants continued to get more creative, as the crowd was dedicated to having their voice heard for the full hour.
Food services on campus are overseen by UNBC, who contracts out the work to another company, in this case Chartwells, which is a subsidiary of the larger, multinational Compass Group. Food service workers at UNBC have been in negotiations with the company for months, turning down Compass’ offer of a 20 cent raise each year, as it “won’t pay the rent.” To promote the event, posters were put up on campus, including a quote from cafeteria worker Evelyn Johnston: “I’ve worked in Tim Hortons for 15 years, and I’m proud to work at UNBC. But I only make $14 an hour after 15 years. Now our company is offering only 20 cents increase per year. I work hard for the students. We all deserve a living wage to support our families.”
Any member of the UNBC community, from faculty to staff and students, would likely recognize Evelyn and the myriad of other staff who make food service on campus possible, from your morning coffee to a scan of your ID as you enter the cafeteria. This is a long-standing issue for these employees, who do some of the most vulnerable work in society. As students, we have tremendous power to influence the decision-makers of UNBC, so make sure your voice and messages of support are heard! Please email UNBCjustice@gmail.com to show your support, ask questions, or find out how you can contribute.