About 75 students and USC Hospitality workers attended a meet and greet hosted by Students Coalition Against Labor Exploitation on Thursday night to raise awareness about hospitality workers’ recent grievances.
Workers have raised concerns about decreased hours in the last few months.
SCALE co-president Tandia Elijio said the group is committed to creating a socially responsible university.
“We want these employees to know we care about their issues, which is why we are providing a forum to make their voices are heard,” Elijio said.
SCALE members split attendees into small discussion groups that included both students and worker to facilitate better understanding of workers’ concerns among students.
Julia Wang, co-president of SCALE, said she hopes the issue can be resolved promptly, stressing that student involvement is crucial.
“The best thing right now is for students to get out and support the cause,” Wang said. “The more people that know about the problem, the more people will act.”
Workers in attendance represented nearly every sector of USC Hospitality, from Everybody’s Kitchen to the University Club. Many said they have had their hours shortened from eight a day to as low as six.
Trinidad Leyva and Reyna Sanabria, who have worked at EVK for more than 30 years, expressed concern about the hour reductions.
“The management claimed over the summer that we would get our hours back once the students returned in the fall,” Leyva said. “But it is November now and they still haven’t followed through.”
Sanabria said the situation has worsened, but hopes they can resolve the situation with USC Hospitality.
“We’ve had our problems with the administration before, but this is by far the worst,” Sanabria said. “I hope things can be resolved soon because we don’t want to do anything drastic.”
Hospitality administration said a significant decrease in sales has forced it to choose between its employees and a fiscally prudent department.
“Instead of laying people off, we are trying to get creative,” Director of USC Hospitality Kris Klinger said.
Though every venue has varied levels of success, according to USC Hospitality, Carl’s Jr. has been hit particularly hard with sales that have nearly halved since 2007. Trojan Grounds has seen a 20 percent decrease in sales, which resulted in the temporary suspension of its 24-hour service last year.
“We want to clarify that we are not cutting employee hours down enough to make them ineligible for benefits,” Klinger said. “We have not laid off a single hourly worker in over two years.”
Klingler said one of the major reasons staff hours were being cut is students increasingly taking advantage of the new, off-campus eateries, which results in a loss of revenue for USC dining.
“Students have more places to spend their money and are not utilizing venues on campus,” Klinger said. “It’s basic economics. We can’t support the amount of workers we used to.”
Still, many newer workers, like Wok Bar chef James France, said they feel skeptical about the legitimacy of the Trojan Family.
“The administration likes to talk about the Trojan Family all the time,” France said. “So what’s that make us? The foster children?”
Unionized USC Hospitality workers met with university officials last month to express concerns about the reduction of their weekly hours and loss of benefits, which they said resulted in financial hardships and a more stressful work environment.
The meeting between the union, university officials and hospitality employees ended on a positive note, Klinger said.
Hospitality administration staff are currently in the process of creating a compromise to present to the union, which Klingler said should lead to successful negotiations in the coming months.