Councilman to Vanderbilt: 'Do the right thing' for dining workers

Friday, May 18, 2012 at 1:41pm

A Metro Councilman has asked Vanderbilt University to sit down with the school’s dining workers to “work towards improving their quality of life” and perhaps find them employment over the summer instead of laying them off each May.

“This is an opportunity to continue to win over the hearts of Nashvillians and do the right thing here,” first-year District 7 Councilman Anthony Davis wrote to Vanderbilt Chancellor Nichloas Zeppos in a May 10 letter.

“The dining employees are simply underpaid to raise a family,” he wrote. “There should also be a grand effort to give them summer employment if at all possible.”

In his letter, Davis cites an April 29 City Paper story on the concerns of Vanderbilt’s some 200 dining hall workers. These chefs cooks and others personnel earn approximately $16,500 per year, but most are laid off from May through August when the majority of Vanderbilt students leave for summer break. Paychecks during this period cease.

The dining employees, organized under Laborers Local 386, are looking for one of two remedies: Either Vanderbilt offer unemployment over the summer (which by state law, the university is not obligated to do) or the school identify other on-campus summer employment opportunities.

It seems unlikely a city councilman could steer the policy of a private university that happens to be Davidson County’s largest employer.

Nonetheless, Vanderbilt spokeswoman Princine Lewis said Zeppos had received the letter and plans to respond.

Previously, Vanderbilt has responded to questions from The City Paper by providing a fact sheet, which says the school does not hire dining employees for “full-time, 12-month work.” Rather, Vanderbilt hires “regular” and “partial-year” employees with an understanding between both parties that the job timeframe runs from mid-August through the first week of May.

“Vanderbilt does not grant or deny any employee unemployment benefits –– these are granted to unemployed workers by the Tennessee Department of Labor based on eligibility requirements established by state law,” Elizabeth Latt, Vanderbilt’s assistant vice chancellor of news and communication, has said.

9 Comments on this post:

By: govskeptic on 5/18/12 at 5:17

That should scare the Be Jesus out of ye ole Chancellor!

By: jws37205 on 5/19/12 at 5:09

Perhaps Vanderbilt should fire all their employees and contract the food service work out to a third party like every other university in Nashville. The food service workers will be paid even less than before, but Vanderbilt will no longer have to put up with this crap from self-righteous socialists like Davis.

By: slacker on 5/19/12 at 6:42

Maybe Davis could hire some of these folks in the summer, Its just the right thing to do darn it. He will feel all warm and fuzzy, and everything will be good in the land.

By: Ask01 on 5/20/12 at 11:45

As I understand, this has been a common practice for years, not a new development, in which Vanderbilt dining workers were laid off during summer months.

I will make an assumption, if you'll bear with me, that in years past workers were able to set aside enough to survive, and perhaps even enjoy the time off. More likely, those with the summer off were able to find temporary employment for the period they were unemployed.

With the recession, higher cost of living, and other economic facotrs, making ends meet and finding even temporary employment have become more difficult, if not impossible.

If my assumptions are valid, Vanderbilt should not bear the entire burden of responsibility. Rather, corporate America and businesses should be assigned a goodly portion of blame as their reluctance to keep people working, create new jobs, and keep prices reasonable keeping the economy working for everyone, and not just the few makes them the main culprit.

Of course, Vanderbilt could make more of an effort to aid workers in securing summer employment, as I feel certain the university has numerous contacts, via graduates, who would enjoy finding workers recommended by the staff as being responsible an efficient.

Predictably, reverting back to my '60's upbringing, I do prefer to blame the corporations and the new enemy, the 1%.

What was that song, with the line about "an old hippie, trying to adjust?" Well, I suppose that is what I have become as I age somewhat less gracefully than my children would like.

Have a wonderful weekend, folks.

By: Rocket99 on 5/21/12 at 6:55

I have a friend who works in food service at another private university in Tennessee. He is actually the employee of a company who contracts with the university. He has to deal with being unemployed not only during the summer months but also for part of December & Janruary.

Maybe Vandy should go the route of hiring a company for that service. Then, like someone else said, it's not them doing the laying off.

I think someone in Metro Council is trying to make a name for themself so they can hopefully further their political career.

By: Radix on 5/21/12 at 9:39

This is a bit ridiculous. People have to find a job that is right for them!!! Some families (where a spouse is the primary bread-winner) need and want jobs where they off over the summer so they can spend time with their kids, then have a secure job to go back to in the fall when the kids return.

There is definitely a need for these jobs in the job market! Sounds like a well-meaning but short-sighted Councilmen who has been roped in by a Union who is after more $.

By: Alphadog7 on 5/21/12 at 10:05

Why do I get the feeling this is a bigger problem for the union$ than the employees? I wonder if certain councilmen got union donations.

By: Radix on 5/21/12 at 11:37

No kidding! As if we have a shortage of year-round food workers!

So let's get this straight, Vandy can put them on unemployment, so they sit at home for 3 months of the year and do nothing, and collect a check.

Let's examine that scenario...
- Workers: paid to do nothing
- Unions: 'dues' from workers for doing nothing
- Politicians: Union $ for shaking down Vandy
- You and Me: well, we get to pay for it all.

By: slacker on 5/21/12 at 3:38

Davis is a typical of the liberals that are now running this city. They like to advise people on how to run their businesses, who they can hire, and they love to spend other peoples money, especially taxpayers, to fulfill their politically correct fantasies.