DePaul students call for extended safety protections for Chartwells workers

Union+representatives%2C+DePaul+workers%2C+and+student+supporters+gather+outside+of+the+Student+Center+before+delivering+Chartwells+petition+for+new+worker+demands.

Eric Henry

Union representatives, DePaul workers, and student supporters gather outside of the Student Center before delivering Chartwells petition for new worker demands.

Chartwells employee — and father of three — Marcus Grant is concerned about his health insurance being removed after Aug. 31.

“It would be devastating for a lot of us because a lot of us have small children,” Grant said. “We depend on our health insurance to keep working, kids get hurt all the time… we don’t wanna have to get a bill in the mail that says we owe x amount of thousands of dollars for something that our company is supposed to be paying for.”

Chartwells was delayed in filling certain paperwork for employees that were furloughed, preventing employees from getting unemployment benefits right away, according to Grant. 

”A lot of people received [their unemployment benefits] late because the company had to do their end by submitting when they were laid off,” said Grant. “People were backed up on bills. People were like one week from being homeless.”

Grant said Chartwells employees are a representation of Chartwells and DePaul University.

“I think the university should step up and put some pressure on their company, if not, take some of that responsibility themselves,” said Grant. “We represent the company but we’re also there for the students that go to the school.”

In support of Grant and other struggling Chartwells employees, approximately 25 students gathered outside the Lincoln Park Student Center Wednesday to deliver a petition requesting an extension to COVID-19 health and safety protections for dining hall workers. 

The petition was 34 pages long with a total of 1,568 signatures on it, according to Carson-Nelson.

The petition called for the continuation of contributions for health insurance for laid-off workers, quarantine pay, voluntary layoff and more. Chartwells employees have been fighting for benefits through the COVID-19 pandemic since April when they asked through their union, UNITE HERE Local 1, for layoff pay.

SGA Executive Vice President of Operations Wesley Janicki joined Grant to deliver the petition. The goal was to get it to DePaul Student Center’s Assistant Director of Operations Joe Skibicki, in the hopes of it reaching Bob Janis, executive vice president of operations. 

Grant tried to enter the building with Janicki accompanying him but was denied access. Initially, it was due to him being unable to get a “Good to Go!” status on the #CampusClear app because he does not have DePaul University login credentials.

Jeff Quest, associate director of housing and student centers, was manning the check-in desk at the Student Center instead of the usual student employee. DePaul’s Director of Housing and Student Centers Rick Moreci was also at the entrance.

“DePaul brought down two higher-level student centers and housing folks to man the security desk, instead of the student who had been,” said Janicki. “And even when we entered the first time with Marcus, Rick seemingly stood in a manner to block entry and strongarm us.”

After the main entrance attempt at the corner of Belden and Kenmore avenues, the employee working at the desk instructed Grant to enter through the dock. Grant and the students then went to the dock in an effort to deliver the petition.

Upon entrance to the dock, the group was immediately greeted by Chartwells Resident District Manager Mark Little and Moreci. Little was there before the group entered the dock, apparently aware of the group’s intent to enter the building. Due to Grant’s status of being furloughed, he was unable to enter.

Little continued to decline Grant access to the building, despite Grant’s declaration that he was acting on behalf of the union. In place of Grant, SGA Treasurer Camila Barrientos joined Janicki.

At 3:38 p.m., Janicki and Barrientos went to find Skibicki to deliver the petition but were told he had left for the day by student center staff. 

Janicki and Barrientos then went to deliver the petition to the administration office on the third floor to find that the door was locked. After two attempts, Janicki and Barrientos delivered the petition to Moreci.

A copy of the petition was peacefully delivered to Little by Chartwells employees earlier in the day, according to UNITE HERE Local 1 representative Noah Carson-Nelson.

 

Correction (9/10/2020): A previous version of this story omitted that SGA Treasurer Camila Barrientos and SGA Executive Vice President of Operations Wesley Janicki delivered the petition to DePaul Director of Housing and Student Centers Rick Moreci. The story has since been updated to include this detail.

Update (9/11/2020): This story has been updated to include more details regarding the gathering.