A coalition of two organizations, Organized and United for Respect at Vanderbilt, or OUR Vanderbilt, and Vanderbilt Students for Nonviolence, held a rally Monday evening to unify support for Vanderbilt Dining workers who have voiced their concerns that the university provides insufficient support during the summer months. The rally, which was originally to be held in front of Kirkland Hall, was moved to Room 189 in the basement of Sarratt Student Center due to the rainy weather.
Over 70 students and employees were in attendance to hear several speakers, both students and workers, discuss their desire for fair treatment of all employees of the university by the administration. The speakers included Sheila Joy, a dining worker in the Rand Varsity Market and the Library Cafe, Kim Ingram, a worker in Rand Dining Hall, Anne Alukonis, a worker in Last Drop Coffee Shop, senior Hirak Pati and freshman David Shuck.
Vanderbilt Dining workers, many of whom are employed the eight and a half months out of the year that school is in session, say they want the university to either provide them with adequate salary or a job to sustain them during the summer months, or allow them to collect unemployment.
“Most people would like to work during the summer,” said Anne Alukonis. “I know it’s not possible for everyone, but if you can’t place us all, at least allow us to collect something in the summer. It is the moral thing to do.”
Many students were in attendance to show their solidarity with the dining workers.
“These are real people,” said sophomore Ayanna Fisher, who worked for Vanderbilt Dining for a year. “I know they don’t have a voice. I have the power to give them a voice.”
Graduate student Tristan Call says he hopes the rally will help workers realize that they are not alone.
“The main goal of the rally is to show workers that students have their back and tell Vanderbilt that now is the time to act,” Call said.
Call added that change is possible - hopefully in the next two months, and if nothing changes, they will continue to fight.
“We will have to be ready for a long-haul campaign,” he said.
Organizers of the rally also passed out postcards with a message to Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos asking him to take action. Speakers encouraged attendees to sign the postcards, and asked people to take extras to display around campus.
“We will be sending postcards one-a-day [to Chancellor Zeppos] until they run out, just so we can show that people care,” said freshman Erika Russ. “If he knows students are involved, he will be more likely to act.”