Throughout the day on Monday, hundreds of students delivered letters to University President Anthony Monaco expressing their support for dining workers in their contract negotiations with the university.
This student action, organized by Tufts Dining Action Coalition (TDAC), was done in solidarity with a similar campaign on Friday in which dining workers hand-delivered letters to Monaco, according to TDAC organizer Jesse Ryan, a sophomore.
The letters read, “I support the Tufts dining workers’ demands. I’m committed to win because …” leaving several lines for students to write their individual reasons.
TDAC reported that 404 students had dropped off letters at Monaco’s office in Ballou, although Ryan said that the number of letters delivered was larger as multiple students delivered letters on behalf of friends.
Patrick Collins, executive director of public relations, said in an email that the university did not count the letters which it had received but had no reason to dispute TDAC’s count.
“We always appreciate student input, and we will certainly take the comments that were provided into account as we continue with the negotiating process,” Collins told the Daily in an email. “We share the hope that we can come to an agreement soon.”
The letter writing campaign comes as contract negotiations between the university and UNITE HERE Local 26, which represents the dining workers, enter their seventh month.
Ryan said the letters were intended as a show of support before the talks that took place on Tuesday.
“The impact will be that Monaco and the people who will be going into negotiations tomorrow morning will feel a lot of pressure from the student body, and also from the 100-plus workers who did this action on Friday,” Ryan said.
Monaco, however, did not receive the letters personally. Yvette Terry, assistant to the president, collected them from students in the second-floor hallway of Ballou.
Ryan accused Monaco of hiding from students.
“Anthony Monaco’s been hiding from us but we know he’s in Ballou because people saw him this morning,” Ryan said.
Collins responded, saying this characterization was completely inaccurate.
“President Monaco conducted normal business, including meetings in and out of his office, and spoke to at least two groups of students as they delivered letters,” Collins said in an email to the Daily.
According to Collins, in the negotiations that took place on Tuesday morning, the university responded to all open proposals and presented the union with a draft final agreement. The university is waiting for the union’s response at the next session of talks which will take place later this month, Collins said.
Christine Tringale, a night cook supervisor at Hodgdon Food-on-the-Run who participated in Friday’s worker action, said that the workers had decided to do the letter writing campaign to voice their concerns about changes they want to see directly to Monaco.
“I wrote that I need a change for my family, to lower insurance payments and raise our wage, as well as asking for respect,” she told the Daily in an electronic message.
Emma Ishida, a junior, delivered her letter as part of a group of around 50 students who assembled in front of Ballou before noon on Monday and marched up the stairs to the Office of the President.
“This is more confrontational than in the past,” said Ishida. “The message is that we are physically here to support the dining workers.”
Ishida said that the message she had written on her letter was that she knows what it is like not to be heard, and she urged Monaco to listen and hear the dining workers.
Micah Kraus, another TDAC organizer, said that students had been very willing and excited to participate in the action and that this support was not superficial.
“[Students] are also curious about the details. They’re not just doing it as a surface-level action,” Kraus, a first-year, said. “They want to know why, and they know that our dining workers need affordable healthcare, job security, fair pay, all just basic human rights.”
Steven Becker, a junior, delivered a letter just after noon on Monday.
“It’s really important to me that there’s justice in the institutions from which I benefit, and part of that means making sure that workers have dignity and a voice in their own future,” Becker said.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article included Ryan’s allegations that President Monaco was hiding from students, but did not include a response to this allegation from the university. This article has been updated to reflect additional comment from Patrick Collins.
An earlier version also stated that representatives of UNITE HERE Local 26 had not responded to multiple requests for comment by press time, which is incorrect. The article has been updated to reflect this change. The Daily regrets these errors.