Spreading thanks to Aramark employees during #WorkerAppreciationDay
The Student Workers Alliance organized #WorkerAppreciationDay which thanked the Aramark staff of AU for their hard work and dedication to the school.
Members of the Student Workers Alliance (SWA) hosted the first Worker Appreciation Day on Sept. 21 in the Terrace Dining Room to thank the Aramark employees who keep AU operational every day.
German Figueroa, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences and a leader in SWA, was inspired by group members last year to hold an event that would express gratitude to the staff.
“The people who are making their food and feeding them are actual people,” Figueroa said. “One of the things I felt like this event helped to do was help the school heal. It’s a starting point after everything that has happened. The reality is that the workers go through [discrimination-related] things like that everyday, and they don’t have a voice, they can’t vocalize it. We can unite and advocate for the workers.”
Students made thank-you cards in the entrance of TDR throughout the day, and an AU professor supplied cookies. SWA members also encouraged participants to take selfies with staff members to promote the cause using the hashtag #WorkerAppreciationDay on social media. Thank-you cards were displayed around TDR, the P.O.D. market in MGC and other locations on campus.
“[It] feels really good when [the students] appreciate you,” Michael Young, a 10-year AU Aramark employee at TDR, said. “I appreciate those students. I feel like it’s not just me making students’ happy, they’re making me happy.”
SWA works closely with Aramark employees on campus to make sure they’re represented in the community and members also have regular check-in’s and conversations with staff. Figueroa said that members of SWA visit MGC and the residence halls regularly to engage with the staff around campus.
“When I got sick for the first time at AU, my mom wasn't there to get me medicine or tell me to lay in bed all day,” Delancey Lane, a junior in the School of Public Affairs, said via email. “However, an Aramark worker who cleaned our residence saw my disgusting state and brought me medicine and lozenges, saying ‘I always give these to my son when he's under the weather. Now let's get you some tea.’ The workers are more than just service providers; they're a part of our community.”
Members of the organization have regular check-ins with each other every day over group messaging, according to Figueroa. They use this as a forum for status updates, and if an emergency meeting needs to be held, as in the case of the firing of Aramark employee and WCL student, Ana Ebanks.
Figueroa hopes that the club’s presence in the community will expand this year, including scheduled visits to the workers and advocacy for their rights as union employees. The goal is that more students can recognize that these workers should be thanked every single day.
“To me, the workers are family because I’ve never had someone cook or clean for me that wasn’t family,” Figueroa said. “They went out of their way to accommodate me even when everything for them was terrible.”