The UC Santa Barbara Student Dining Labor Union held a rally on Friday, Feb. 2, to rally campus support and pressure the university to accommodate union demands.
The union — composed of student dining hall workers across all four UCSB dining halls — gathered 30 attendees, beginning with a gathering at the Arbor at 10:30 a.m. Student Dining Labor Union (SDLU) leaders handed out chant sheets and delivered speeches before marching to Executive Director of Campus Dining Jill Horst’s office to demand recognition.
SDLU is the first UC undergraduate student dining hall union and gained official union recognition from the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) after gaining a majority of workers to sign authorization sheets.
Among the union’s main demands are higher pay, safer working conditions, sick leave and better sexual harassment policies. The current goal is to reach the “bargaining table” with the university, according to third-year history of public policy and law major and Ortega worker Cole McCarthy.
“We’ve been dealing with a lot of issues — temperature control, no overtime — and so we’re here to just finally make our voice heard, and unionize,” McCarthy said. “A vast majority of workers support unionization but the university hasn’t budged.”
Fourth-year psychology & brain sciences major and Ortega worker Fiona Kuhi said that the university meeting their demands is essential to the livelihood, health and education of all student dining workers.
“We are students before we are workers. We do so much work and all we’re asking for is fair compensation so that we can focus on our studies instead of having to spend all of our free time at work. The people who feed this campus shouldn’t themselves go hungry because we don’t have enough money to eat,” Kuhi said.
Kuhi also emphasized the importance of other members of the student body supporting the cause, stating that dining hall workers are necessary to UCSB’s campus.
“It’d be amazing if the rest of the campus supported [SDLU] too because of all that we do for this campus. The campus would not be able to run without the dining halls. We feed half of all the students here.”
Second-year Portola worker Clay Dau addressed the group with a call to action, highlighting the strength in their numbers and the university’s need to address union demands in order to maintain functioning dining halls.
“They can’t run the dining halls without us. We demand to be recognized, demand a contract that includes sick leave, better pay and humane treatment,” Dau said.
“No longer will we be a helpless victim with no hope. You get to make huge wins in college campuses all over the United States because workers are starting to realize the power they have when they work together.”
The group marched from the Arbor to the location of Horst’s office across from the University Center. Third-year aquatic biology major and De La Guerra Dining Commons employee Jasmine Rebollar delivered a speech to Horst about their union, urging her to speak with the university on their behalf.
“Forming this union is not just about signing cards, but about student dining workers coming together to have a true collective voice to negotiate for our fair share values,” Rebollar said.
“Any chance, can you help expedite that process by, you know, giving [the university] a push to recommend us?”
Horst replied saying the petition is being handled by the Office of the President, giving her no control over the process.
“What I’m aware of today is that you all filed a petition and it’s being handled by the Office of the President … so it’s not handled by me, but it’s been handled up there when you guys filed a petition,” Horst said. “This is all I know.”
The group expressed dissatisfaction with Horst’s response.
“That just sounded like another corporate-ass response. I want to hear that commitment. I want to see that petition get passed. I want to see our union get recognized,” Rebollar said.
The group then began chanting “Student dining workers strong, We can fight all day long,” and made plans to reconvene to debrief and discuss further plans.
A version of this article appeared on p. 4 of the Feb. 8, 2024, print edition of the Daily Nexus.