Earlier this month, Oberlin College students boycotted on-campus dining services in protest to the school’s contract with Bon Appetit Management Company.
The uprising was planned by the Student Labor Action Coalition (SLAC), whose goal is to switch the college to a “self-management food service model” following concerns about Bon Appetit’s management practices, according to The Oberlin Review.
Concerns were first brought up at a SLAC worker’s panel in April, when Campus Dining Services (CDS) employees expressed that Bon Appetit does not consider their input, specifically concerning food quality.
“You know, they say how they get organic food, but it’s half-rotten when it gets here,” Milton Wyman, chair of the Oberlin chapter of the United Auto Workers (UAW) union, said. “They buy in such large quantities that it sits on the docking lots before they can get it all out.”
“They were just very adamant about issues, and a lot of the issues about Bon Appétit came to light,” SLAC co-chair Jeeva Muhil said to the Review. “We know that this is a really important time of financial transition for the College, so we talked about having an action to really raise awareness about Bon Appétit and really put getting rid of it on the table, in a broader sense.”
Muhil also brought up another reason for the boycott — that Bon Appetit supplies services to companies within the prison, oil and gas, mining, construction, and defense industries.
It was also mentioned that students at the school previously boycotted the school’s previous food-service provider, Sodexho, for simply owning investments in a private prison company.
“The original goal of the ‘Not With Our Money’ campaign was to go to self-management, and instead the College got rid of Sodexho, and instead brought in Bon Appétit,” Muhil said. “And Bon Appétit is also a shareholder in Trinity Services, which caters to the prison-industrial complex.”
Both SLAC and UAW request that the college change to self-managed dining services, making the point that other schools with this system are classified higher in dining than Oberlin.
Matt Kubach, a CDS worker, told the Review that he is in favor of self-management because he believes the current system is affected poorly by profit motives.
“When we report to somebody, we’re reporting to an organization that’s a for-profit. The rest of the campus is a non-profit, and obviously you’ve got to make money, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve got to make a ton of money,” he said. “I kind of feel Bon Appétit wouldn’t be here if they weren’t making money. I don’t think they’re here for good will. I think for me, personally…what I would like to see in the dining program is to just try to break even—provide the fair wages, try to lower the room and board cost.”
During the one-day boycott, cashiers noticed a vast decline in transactions at Oberlin’s three dining halls. Just 342 students bought lunch and 474 bought dinner in comparison to a usual average of over 1,000 students at each meal.
(H/T: Campus Reform)