Minh’s Notes

Human-readable chicken scratch

Minh Nguyễn
December 11th, 2005


Stanford goes on strike Monday

This post isn’t really for Stanford students, since it’s nothing new for them. But folks back home in Cincinnati might not be aware of the fact that schools are not immune to labor issues.

No, Stanford students aren’t forming a picket line the first day of exams. (Although that’d be really neat.) Rather, the thousands of workers who cook for us, clean our dishes, sanitize our restrooms, and otherwise keep the school running smoothly – as well as a large number of workers at the Stanford Hospital – are going on a 24-hour strike Monday. The employers’ union has been in negotiations with the University for some time now over employer benefits, particularly regarding health and pension plans. The union alleges that the University has been negotiating in bad faith, attempting to push benefit changes backhandedly, so the union has filed an “unfair labor practice” charge with the National Labor Relations Board.

The strike will result in the closing of many dining facilities on campus, including most dorm dining halls and restaurants. It will also mean that the free Marguerite shuttle routes will be altered according to the picket lines that workers will form on Monday. But I really have to ask: is this really going to mean much for the students in the end? They picked a poor time to picket (please excuse my alliteration), at the beginning of exam week, when most students will be fully absorbed in the inner workings of thermodynamics and Locke, as opposed to joining the workers on the picket line.

From the student’s standpoint, the University has been losing the PR race. The student body is an important population for the administration to address, yet so far the only real word we’ve gotten from the University has been a nicely-worded e-mail from Interim Dean of Student Affairs Greg Boardman, an e-mail that has since been dissected and disproven by the Coalition for Labor Justice, which includes various student action groups on campus. It also seems that they have been trying to mitigate the financial effect of the one-day strike, misleading the students into thinking that eating at the few open dining halls will not interfere with the strike. In fact, eating at one of those dining halls will apparently be deemed “crossing the picket line.”

The only eateries not affected are the ones not owned by or affiliated with Stanford Dining Enterprises. So I’m having lunch at NetAppetit, the catering van that parks right behind Tressider Union every day to serve a box-it-yourself Asian buffet lunch.