Student Dining Hall Workers Rally for Recognition

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Cassie Pataky

Opinions Editor

On Feb. 2, the Student Dining Labor Union (SDLU) rallied outside the Arbor to draw attention to their petition for the University of California (UC) to recognize them. They then delivered the petition to Jill Horst, the Executive Director of Campus Dining. 

Horst responded by claiming she does have the power to recognize the union, which is true. Workers asked her to aid them by encouraging the UC to recognize them, but Horst refused to do so.

Though the petition was filed in Dec. 2023, the UC system has not yet recognized the union, leaving them unable to start negotiating or bargaining for a better contract. 

“Our union is overwhelmingly supported by our workplace and the university should do the right thing and recognize us,” Ezekiel Whiting, a student dining hall worker at Ortega, told The Bottom Line (TBL). 

Whiting started working in the dining halls during the 2023 spring quarter and began contributing to SDLU soon after. At the time, he was looking for apartments, all of which were quite expensive. Knowing this, Whiting wanted a better wage so that he could afford to live in Isla Vista while continuing to be a full-time student, and thus joined SDLU.

According to Whiting, “SDLU is a democratic collective of student workers in the dining halls who have gotten together to fight for better wages, better working conditions, less harassment, and to build a community within the dining halls.”

In order to officially become a union, SDLU had to first have more than 65 percent of student dining workers (including catering and concessions) sign union authorization cards, claiming they agreed to become a member. Once this supermajority was achieved, Whiting and other representatives of SDLU traveled to Oakland to submit the cards to the California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) on Dec. 7, 2023. Later that month, PERB formally recognized SDLU. Now, they are waiting for the UC system to recognize them, which has not yet happened, prompting their rally on Feb. 2.

“I want to see my workplace improve,” said Whiting. Once recognized, the union can start collective bargaining for a better contract, which would include better wages, working conditions, and harassment protections.

Aside from bargaining, SDLU also aims to better educate its members and potential members. Though the union is far from considering striking, Whiting revealed that many people mistakenly believe the union will go on strike. Before the union can be authorized to strike, the UC has to act unlawfully during the recognition or bargaining process.

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