Student Government of Seattle University (SGSU) passed a resolution in an effort to support student workers who have experienced workers’ rights violations while working for Chartwells. Residence Hall Association (RHA) brought the issue forth after several student workers originally came to them after a scheduling issue that happened at the beginning of spring quarter.
Workers have since detailed instances in which they felt their physical safety and emotional needs were not respected on the job, such as one student worker who was forced to work after experiencing an allergic reaction. Throughout the process of writing the resolution several students have come forward alleging physical and mental mistreatment.
These reported problems for student workers are just the latest of Chartwells workers’ complaints of mistreatment and abuse by employers. While prior complaints have come from both student and non-student employees, SGSU spoke out on behalf of student workers in particular in this resolution.
Workers allege the issues first started when their availability was not taken into account when the schedule for the quarter was put together. After workers put in their availability, they were given schedules that interfered with their schoolwork or extracurricular activities.
“The fact that we are not able to join the existing union, which exists to advocate for workers, means that Chartwells has no incentive to not stomp all over us.”
It was when students brought this issue to their residence hall representatives that RHA and SGSU came together to try to make sure that these issues were fixed immediately. Through the process of drafting this resolution, several other key issues were brought up regarding management’s treatment of workers. The students claimed that they were not getting the legally required overtime pay for days worked more than eight hours, and that they were not receiving secure scheduling pay for when their schedules are unexpectedly changed or cancelled. The resolution broadly recognizes that there are student complaints regarding their physical and mental treatment and uses the particularly vivid example of a “manager instructing an employee with an allergic reaction to ‘take a 20 and splash some water on your face.’” Student employees, who chose to remain anonymous also told a story of a manager who ridiculed a worker for having diabetes.
“The manager started to talk to another employee about how useless some diabetics are because [the manager] used to work in a home taking care of them,” one employee said. “She tries to stand up for herself, but she just keeps being pushed back down.”
The student workers raised these concerns about treatment and pay to their managers hoping that these issues would be resolved, but they persisted. Student workers cannot join the existing food service union because they are hired through the school, and they have no one to represent them as a collective and teach them about their workers’ rights.
“Student workers don’t know our rights,” one employee said. “The fact that we are not able to join the existing union, which exists to advocate for workers, means that Chartwells has no incentive to not stomp all over us.”
After all of these complaints were brought forth, SGSU representatives wrote legislation to take action. Graham Wielgos, one of the at-large representatives, and Marrakech Maxwell, one of the first-year representatives, were the sponsors for the resolution, which is a declaration of support. They helped draft the document and prompt the talks that are scheduled to happen between Chartwells and SGSU.
While the resolution started as a way for SGSU to advocate for student workers to have fair scheduling, it has since come to include a series of other rights violations, including awareness of physical and mental health issues, as well as issues with paying students properly.
“She tries to stand up for herself, but she just keeps being pushed back down.”
Shelley Strayer, the resident district manager for Chartwells, declined an interview with The Spectator, but she said in an email that Chartwells was unaware of any mistreatment and would not have anything to say until their upcoming meeting with SGSU.
SGSU will meet with Chartwells in the coming weeks, alongside student workers, in order to achieve fair and legal treatment as employees. For the team, they believe it to be important to take action that fosters cooperation among all campus entities, as described by SGSU President Azrael Howell.
“I think it’s very important to have a relationship with everyone involved, especially when it comes to this dynamic of students and admin and staff, making sure that relationship is clear across the board, making sure everyone knows about their roles but ultimately knowing that students have the power,” Howell said.
If the issues are not resolved, SGSU said they are willing to take further action to ensure that Chartwells follows labor laws and respects the rights of student workers. SGSU wants the student body to be cognizant of these students’ issues and is seeking the student body’s support on these issues.
“We really want this to be something that the administration hears about, the best thing people can do is to talk about these issues, write to Chartwells telling them you as a student won’t stand for this,” Wielgos said.
Logan may be reached at