The Sodexho food-service worker controversy hasbeen present on the campus foryears.Those in favor of UC Davis employing food service workers argued that workers deserved health care and improved benefits and that the university was underhanded in contracting out their employment.Those in favor of the status quo argued that a minority of workers were dissatisfied andthatthe cost of employing workers was prohibitive.Both sides had valid points,and it would have been easy for the campusofficials to declare a stalemate.However,the UCD administration took this issue seriously and embarked on a lengthy study of its options to address the problem.
Throughout the process, UC Davis officials have been guided by twoworthyprinciples:making decisions based on factual research,and improving the situation to both student and worker satisfaction.While not everyone may becompletelysatisfied by the outcome,the compromisingsolution the university has reached ishighlysensible and ethical.Food-service workers will become university employees while Sodexho will continue to manage operations.
The decision to employ workersnaturally comes with downsides,the most notable being the$2million cost to the school.The UC system already faces substantial budget cuts,and UC Davis anticipates a7percent student fee increasefor next year.It is unfortunate that incoming students will have to pay increased housing fees to fund the worker employment in addition to an overall tuitionfee increase.
However,the decision to employ the food-service workers is moving UC Davis in a direction more compatible with its progressive and egalitarian culture.It is a worthwhile sacrifice in consideration of the hardship many workersfaced ingetting health care coverage for family members and a safety net for retirement.
Hopefully the university’splan tolighten the burden on any one generation of UCD students – improving profits from retail outlets,dipping into reserves and getting some of the money from Sodexho – will be successful.Students should not have to forego thefullcollege experienceof on-campus livingbecause of a rise in student housing fees.
The Sodexho problem is far from over.The university still has to consider a wealth of complications in transferring worker employment,and not all workers will benefitor get rehired.In addition,the Sodexho contract expires in about two years,andUC Davis will have to decide what direction to take at that time.Undoubtedly,many hope that the school will phase out Sodexho completely when it can.It remains to be seen how well this new system of management will work,and hopefully the university will use its transition period wisely,continuing to basedecisions on research and a variety of perspectives.