by Chadwick Schnee
Campus Times Staff
After about half of a semester, ARAMARK has failed to pay students for working in the Common Ground Caf. Some frustrated students turned to striking, in order to let the corporation know their discontent. Six of the seven student managers have quit their jobs, leaving students and employees to wonder who exactly is to blame for this situation.
“It has been about six weeks that I have been working and have not received a single paycheck,” coffeehouse employee Matt Steini-ger said.
Bill Myers, director of operations at ARAMARK, feels that the problem occurred because of a change in paperwork. “There was a collective breakdown as a result of multiple systems, including ARAMARK managers, student managers and the university over the payroll system,” Myers said.
“The new forms were then filled out, but some were still returned because they had Social Security Numbers instead of the student ID numbers. As a result of this, there was a 6-week delay in paying employees.”
One former student manager, freshman Ali Johnson, sees the problem differently. According to Johnson, some employees have been waiting on payroll because ARA-MARK failed to inform student managers of the change in payroll forms.
Once she did find out, however, Johnson had other problems.
“No one could tell me what signature was acceptable, and when they finally did, that person refused to sign it. When they did understand what was going on, we waited for them.”
Common Ground Caf employee Sarah Hammer agrees with Johnson. “The fault definitely does not lie in our former student managers, nor even in our manager, but in the upper ARAMARK employees who deal with signing papers so that we can get our checks on time” Hammer said.
As a result of the absence of pay, Marilyn Lopez began the strike on Oct 10.
“After speaking to the career center employees several times, the student manager in charge of payroll, the general manager and after seeking out Phyllis Clayton, all I got was people pointing fingers elsewhere,” Lopez said. “So in frustration I threw up my arms and said, ‘I don’t care whose fault it is, just pay me.’ I walked my frustrated little self down to the coffeehouse, wrote my co-workers a note on how I was striking until I was paid, and walked out.”
Freshman Cedric Logan was one of the student-employees that joined the strike. “I’m just sad that it took the students striking before the so-called professionals in the current hierarchy did their jobs,” Logan says. “I spoke to five managers and administrators who could have solved the problem, but they didn’t solve it because ARAMARK runs a lousy business at UR and no one cared enough to take a half an hour out of their day and fix the situation.”
Hammer also blames ARA-MARK for the lack of pay. “The situation sucks, because apparently ARAMARK thinks that we are just working for fun 8212; that we are just making money to play around with,” Hammer said. “The problem lies in the fact that we actually do need the money that we haven’t gotten yet. I personally have bills to pay and some things simply cannot happen without a paycheck. It is unfair that the ‘upper’ ARAMARK workers have taken this long to do something about this when they have been getting paid all the while.”
Myers believes that the problem extended beyond the Common Ground Caf.
Steiniger feels that ARAMARK has not lived up to expectations placed on other employers. “Usually people get a job to have an income to go toward something, paying for college tuition, for example,” he said.
“When the employer does not live up to said expectations, it makes for unhappy employees. To me this is straight-up disrespect for the workers.”
According to Myers, they were surprised by the strike. “We’ve never dealt with this kind of thing before. The strike was unfortunate, but well understood. We hoped that we could’ve resolved this issue without a break in service, but we want students and employees to know that we understand. We want people to be happy, and to be paid. We look forward to working with students, and appreciate their hard work and dedication.”
“We’ve been processing some pay forms on the same day, which is a costly process, but we’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do,” Myers said.
As a result of their frustration, the majority of student managers filed their two-week notices. “I quit because I was frustrated because the ARAMARK managers never came through with their promises,” said Johnson, who was among those that quit. “They seldom listened and didn’t care even when they did. Usually when we did things to make the Common Ground better, they either yelled at us by saying that we were trying to take control of things that we had no business controlling. If that’s the case, they should see that the worker-employer relationship is a two way street.”
Myers understood the reasons behind the resignations. “There was a lot of stress and anxiety with this whole thing,” he said. “We value our student managers. We enjoy them, and they have done a great job. We have a great relationship, and we hope that it continues.”
Even after half of a semester of problems, there are still some students that have still not received their paychecks. “A couple people still haven’t been paid because of the government’s I-9 forms, but as soon as they bring us formal identification, we should be able to process them,” said Heather Zimmer, food and services director of Wilson Commons.
From her experience with ARA-MARK, Johnson feels that there is a lot to improve upon, specifically in the Common Ground Caf. “When it comes to working hours they just don’t understand. They expect us to justify when we go over 20, yet they don’t understand why certain things don’t get done when we were not working.”
Myers said he felt the Common Ground Caf is pretty efficient, but that it’s not perfect. “There are some things we could improve upon,” he said. “We’d like to work with students more, and to have more student and customer input. We’d like to actively solicit ideas, and implement them to improve things for the future. That’s how the Common Ground Caf has come about, as a result of customer input.”
Johnson said she believes that ARAMARK’s dealing with employees has been extremely unfair. “They accuse us of things that they have no proof of 8212; doctoring hours, shorting the cash drawer and even dealing drugs while on shift,” she said. “When they find out they aren’t true, however, they don’t even apologize for making our lives miserable and accusing us of criminal acts without proof.
“It is really sad that they will only pay attention to us when they have to help us cover the spots in the schedule when people went on strike,” Johnson continued. “It’s also sad that they do not follow up with what they say they are going to do, blame us because we are ‘kids’ in their eyes and therefore inept. They should accept the blame for their shortcomings and all the mistakes that have encouraged us to quit.
“If nothing else, this situation has opened up lines of communication,” she said.
Logan summed up the opinions of the majority of the staff that was striking. “I am sure that ARA-MARK doesn’t care about the students 8212; that much is obvious,” he said.
“But I am most worried that the UR administration doesn’t care about the student employees enough to ensure a competent corporation will be granted a campus monopoly,” he said.
“I am not frightened of monopoly, just incompetence. UR needs to take a serious look at how ARAMARK runs their business here,” he said.
Additional reporting by
Schnee can be reached at email@example.com.