Student Discontent in the University Center
Recently, a few anonymous student workers from Pacific’s cafe recently contacted The Index, expressing their displeasure about workplace procedures.
Until last year, student workers were allowed to work up to 40 hours weekly at Bon Appetit. But this year, Bon Apettit’s manager notified student employees that their hours would be changed to a maximum of 20 weekly. Most were given no explanation why.
In turn, when some student workers voiced concerns, they were told that even Bon Apettit did not know why student hours were changed. “Everyone is in the dark except for Pacific University. My boss was asking us about [why] we were getting shifted to PAYCOM, and I was like, why are you asking me?” shared a student employee.
As a result, many students at Bon Appetit have left their employment due to the confusion over worker hours—and that has forced Bon Appetit to fill the recently vacated positions with temp workers; and, apparently, Bon Appetit has turned to a downloadable app called “Instawork” as their solution.
But that solution only has embittered student employees whose hours were cut, as the cafe hired temp workers are being paying wages double and even triple the rates paid to students.
“[Workers at Bon Appetit are] getting paid like twice as much as your average worker. We get paid 15, they get 30. Some of them even get paid 60,” explained a student employee. “They’re specifically told not to tell us how much they get paid. As a worker there, when someone tells you they’re getting paid twice as much, the motivation to work disappears.”
After a screening process, Instawork offers different tiers of worker membership. The lowest bronze; the highest platinum. The higher the membership, the better the pay and benefits, including first dibs at grabbing shifts, instant payment, and a grab bag of other rewards.
The pay that temporary workers at Bon Appetit earn is so lucrative that some have gone to extraordinary lengths to “secure their bag.” One student worker reported that a temp commutes two and a half hours from Tacoma, Washington, to work at Bon Appetit. The employee lives out of his car for a week before returning to Tacoma and taking time off. “I know that as long as he is working, he is sleeping in his car.” stated the anonymous worker.
It is an odd situation that smells worse than day-old lunch, and had the Index wondering: Why would Bon Appetit hired doubly expensive temporary workers, who sometimes live hours away, instead of employing permanent student workers who often need extra money because they pay to go to Pacific?
The answer we found is troubling: It lies with the new Bon Appetit contract with Pacific, as well as limitations set by Federal Government legislation. The Index contacted Human Resources about student hours, and they responded, “Bon Appetit students are now all employed by Pacific University. All Pacific University student employees are limited to no more than 20 hours per week while in school. We follow the federal student aid handbook which states this limit of hours.”
The rub is that before this year the contract between Pacific University and Bon Appetit left the cafe as its own entity on campus, separate from university regulation. But the new contract changes this. As one student employee stated “Pacific University definitely has their hand in a lot of [Bon Apettit’s affairs now].”
That middling includes following federal guidelines for limiting student work hours, which, in theory, is a good thing.
However, in practice, implementing this policy could have been and could be treated with more care. First, the lack of communication between student employees, Bon Appetit, and Pacific caused some students to leave, forcing Bon Appetit to hire temps who demand high pay. Since then, Bon Appetit has been unable to hire permanent staff.
Furthermore, suppose Bon Appetit is to pay high wages. In this case, it is in Pacific’s best interest to encourage Bon Appetit to hire students who pay to go to Pacific, not random temporary workers hired off the internet. The situation is even more complicated because Bon Appetit tells employees not to tell anyone else their wages, further discouraging student employees to work at the cafe.
Second, with the new contract, Pacific has more power to meddle in Bon Appetit’s affairs, but Bon Appetit is still in charge of hiring temporary workers, which begs the question: Who is really in charge? — Zander Breault and Reed McFeely