The negotiations were the latest in a series of meetings over the past 10 months, which so far have proved unfruitful. Employees say they have had little to no wage increases for more than eight years, are withheld a 22 percent gratuity, and receive only meager stipends as part of their grievances.
In a protest in advance of the negotiating session Wednesday, about 20 members of the Student-Worker Solidarity group, which has advocated for better benefits for campus workers, marched and waved posters outside of Faculty House. Chanting “Sheila Garvey, rich and rude!” and “Sheila Garvey, pay your workers!”, referring to the administrator in charge of labor relations, demonstrators lined up to cheer on workers entering negotiations.
George Joseph, CC '16 and a SWS member, said that “a lot of them came and hugged and thanked us—kissed us.”
According to Joseph and Jane Brennan, CC '14, Garvey tried to use the back door of SIPA to enter Faculty House upon seeing the protesters.
For the second time, student activists were still not allowed in the negotiating room during the talks. Earlier this month, SWS delivered a petition to Jeff Scott, executive vice president for Student and Administrative services, requesting to be allowed into Wednesday's meeting after two students were forbidden from sitting in on the December negotiations—but received no response. Members ended up chasing Scott when they brought the petition to his office.
After discussing in private the presence of third parties at Wednesday's meeting, administrators asked a Spectator reporter, and eventually the SWS students, to leave.
“We can't have disinterested outside observers,” Garvey said. “We've never done it. It's not appropriate ... We can't have Spectator ... these are private discussions.”
After about 20 minutes, when administrators left the room, members of SWS said that the administrators had not negotiated in good faith. Garvey “came in ... and refused to negotiate,” Joseph said.
“It was really disrespectful,” he said. “We just wanted to make the process fair.”
The protest was only one event in a week of action SWS has planned, which includes “teach-ins” with employees educating students about their working conditions.
Faculty House workers said they were thankful for student involvement in their cause.
“No students, no meeting,” said Osmond Cousins, a sous-chef for Faculty House for more than 18 years, before negotiations began. “We're not taking no crap ... This is not a bodega. This is Columbia University.”
“They're scared of us,” said Lindsey Dayton, GSAS. “We've got people running out of their own offices.”
An earlier version of this article stated that SWS activists were, in fact, present for the negotiations. Spectator regrets the error.
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