SGA demands extension of COVID-19 protections for Chartwells workers


(DePaul Student Government Association)

The cabinet members of DePaul’s Student Government Association (SGA) passed a statement demanding that Chartwells extend COVID-19 protections for its workers in a cabinet meeting Monday.

In an open letter to Chartwells, the DePaul administration and the DePaul community, SGA’s 2020-2021 Cabinet references “specific protections” provided to Chartwells workers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, including “healthcare for laid off workers, no form of punishment when calling out sick for reasons related to COVID-19, voluntary lay-off, and quarantine pay.”

The letter calls for a renewal of these protections, citing the pandemic’s devastating effects on communities of color, such as “a lack of access in health care and overcrowded housing.”

“They are deserving of the same protections they were equipped with in the Spring to be carried into the Fall as they prepare to serve students when they return to campus,” the letter read.

The letter further calls on the administration to “advocate on behalf of the Chartwells workers by demanding that Chartwells provide protections for their workers.”

University spokesperson Carol Hughes could not be reached for comment at the time of publication. 

In response to the open letter, Mark Little, the resident district manager of Chartwells Higher Education, said negotiations were taking place with UNITE Here Local 1, Chartwell’s Union, but declined to comment on current negotiations. 

“We’re negotiating a new contract with Unite Here Local 1 that would cover these and other issues,” Little said. “We do not think it is appropriate to comment on the status of ongoing negotiations. These negotiations are best conducted at the bargaining table, not in the press – or through student groups. We look forward to entering a fair and economically viable agreement with Local 1.”

The open letter is one of SGA’s latest efforts to call for protections for Chartwells workers.

Arantxa Reyes, SGA’s PR coordinator, said SGA met with the DePaul administration in the spring to demand that the administration “better advocate” for Chartwells dining workers. SGA also met with Chartwells workers and their union representative to learn about the struggles workers are facing, according to Reyes. 

“From these meetings with [the] DePaul administration and Chartwells employees, SGA worked to pass a resolution concerning Chartwells workers during COVID-19,” Reyes said. Read the resolution here

Chartwells workers’ health and safety protections are set to expire Sept. 1. A petition is circulating online to support the renewal of these protections.

Tiffany Perez, a cashier in DePaul’s Student Center, said that being laid off during the COVID-19 pandemic has caused her financial hardships.

“Not all people are eligible for unemployment and I’m one of those ones that, for over three months, had no income,” Perez said. “I maxed out my credit card and I already went through my savings.”

Perez added that Chartwells has not done anything to help improve her current situation.

“[Chartwells] hasn’t reached out at all,” Perez said. “Fortunately, I had someone give me some information, and right now, I’m receiving food from the food pantry.”

Perez said that Chartwells refuses to renegotiate the benefits offered to workers at the beginning of the pandemic but hopes that Chartwells reconsiders and is thankful for students’ support.

“I will most definitely hope before our start date that they reconsider extending and offering us those things that we talked about [and] what we currently have plus more like hazard pay and making sure that we have an environment that’s safe for us to do our job properly,” Perez said. “We are grateful that the students are standing on the side of us.”