Tufts Dining workers remain in limbo as they await an announcement from the university about how the campus closure will affect their employment, according to union officials.
Several UNITE HERE Local 26 shop stewards, who represent the dining workers, met with university officials, including Director of Dining and Business Services Patti Klos, and a number of top managers in Dowling Hall on Thursday afternoon.
The university announced in an email on Wednesday that the majority of Tufts Dining facilities closed on Saturday for the rest of the semester. Carmichael Dining Center and Commons Marketplace will remain open with limited hours until May 8. Two union shop stewards confirmed that the university’s central kitchen will also remain open.
As a result of the campus-wide shutdowns and cutbacks, Dining Services staff may experience extensive furloughs.
Tricia O’Brien, a shop steward in the retail division, said the workers proposed that Tufts pay all the Dining Services workers in full through April 30 and bring workers back to campus to conduct a deep clean of dining facilities for a week after spring recess. O’Brien said that this was consistent with the agreement reached between Harvard University Dining Services and its employees, who are also represented by Local 26.
During the meeting, Tufts administrators told the workers that discussions are ongoing and final decisions have not been made yet, according to O’Brien.
O’Brien said that the workers also asked the administrators about insurance coverage for healthcare costs related to the COVID-19 pandemic and sick days.
Patrick Collins, Tufts’ executive director of media relations, confirmed that the university is in negotiations with Dining Services managers and representatives from Local 26.
“The University is actively reviewing its business continuity plans and will work with the Union and dining employees to prioritize the health and safety of all community members,” Collins wrote in an email to the Daily.
Representatives from Local 26 will meet with university officials on Tuesday to work out an agreement.
Tufts Labor Coalition posted a statement online on Thursday morning in support of the dining workers. The student group also demanded that the university pay workers through the end of the semester and ensure they have access to COVID-19 testing and unlimited sick days. As of Sunday afternoon, the post had garnered more than 700 signatures.
O’Brien thanked the Tufts community for its support.
“We care for all the students and all the employers. We’re really sorry they have to leave because they’re part of the family,” she said. “So many students have come up to us and asked how we’re doing, and that means so much.”