Johns Hopkins University’s laid-off food service workers and their union secured a victory today, receiving a one-time payment from the university to assist them during the Covid-19 pandemic.
When the coronavirus outbreak began in March and students were sent home, the university temporarily laid off nearly all of its 200 food service workers.
The union representing them, UNITE HERE Local 7, said that after promising to pay the workers the equivalent of four weeks of pay, Hopkins had backed out of the deal. (Hopkins disputed that characterization.)
On May 1, more than a dozen workers protested outside the Homewood campus, holding up “We are essential” signs and telling reporters that many had been unable to successfully file for unemployment and were having difficulty making ends meet.
“This relief pay is really going to help me and my family,” said Konica Rice, a campus food service worker in a statement released by the union.
“We don’t know when it will be safe for all of us to go back to work, so we have to plan for the worst,”Rice said.
In a news release, Hopkins spokesman Douglas Donovan said University officials are pleased that upon “clarification of a range of complex variables,” they were able to make a one-time payment to each of the furloughed employees who work Bon Appétit Management, a national food-service company.
Since the school largely shut down in March, Donovan said, Hopkins, Bon Appétit and UNITE HERE discussed concern that the payment would interfere with the employees’ eligibility for the CARES Act funding or unemployment benefits.
“It has been of utmost importance that the proposed financial support not result in negative financial impacts for the contracted team members,” the statement read. “We are pleased that the special payment option has been identified as a solution.”
In total, 173 workers received the four weeks of relief pay, Donovan said.
Orioles Workers Still Asking
“I’m glad we were able to work with the community on obtaining this compensation, and that Hopkins finally decided to commit to helping these workers,” Roxie Herbekian, an organizer for UNITE HERE, said.
While workers the union represents at the Horseshoe Casino and now Hopkins have received compensation amid the pandemic, the Baltimore Orioles organization has refused to pay its furloughed ballpark workers, she said.
“We have been calling on the Orioles to follow this example for the 700 concessions workers who are out of work,” Herbekian said. “This is when Baltimore needs our large institutions to be good corporate neighbors.”