Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Workers claim turmoil, unsanitary conditions at Rathskeller

Food being served at the improper temperature; managers short-changing employees? overtime hours; chemical cleaners being used improperly – These are among the Memorial Union kitchen conditions reported by its employees.

These allegations come at a time of heightened tension between workers and union administrators. Workers say that things are bad, and they aren?t getting any better ? yet.

?Labor relations down here used to be one of the best, now they?re one of the worst,? said Mark Thomas, Memorial Union food service assistant.


Thomas and another food service employee, Carl Anlein, were disciplined earlier this year for causing an alleged ?labor slowdown? in the Memorial Union kitchen. Apparently, the two employees instructed kitchen workers to slow down, which Thomas flatly denies. Thomas and Anlein were suspended for one day without pay.

?If there?s anyone sabotaging the kitchen, it?s the management,? Thomas said.

In addition to being employed as Memorial Union food service assistants, Thomas and Anlein are stewards for a local branch of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (a statewide labor union for state, county and municipal employees). Their responsibility as members of the AFSCME is to represent employees who file grievances against their workplace. Thomas noted a sharp increase in grievances against the Memorial Union by its kitchen employees.

Both Thomas and Anlein say Memorial Union management has singled them out in the investigation of the ?slowdown.? The two workers believe they were targeted because they defended two Latino custodians who were fired based on race, a finding the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission confirmed.

?I would call [the investigation] straight-out retaliation. Not necessarily scapegoating, but retaliation, definitely,? Anlein said.

Thomas said local community labor groups were supportive after hearing about the investigation. Groups including the Student Labor Action Coalition, Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice, South Central Federation of Labor, and the Green party contacted the Union regarding the incident.

?These community groups contacted the [Memorial] Union and let them know they knew about the situation, so that?s why we didn?t get fired, because of the public outcry,? Thomas said.

According to a Memorial Union investigation exploring the ?slowdown? charges, other employees have also complained about food handling practices, management and safety of the kitchen.

Anlein agreed that employees have been asked to serve ?inferior? food products.

?We?ve had issues with salad dressings that are outdated, and fruit that?s been borderline slimy,? Anlein said.

Anlein also said workers served casseroles that have been prepared below the proper temperature.

?Casseroles are supposed to be heated 180 degrees and shipped out at 160 degrees. We found out that some with raw eggs were never cooked past 140 degrees, and by the time they got to where they were going, who knows what temperature they were,? Anlein said.

Both Thomas and Anlein have agreed that employee relations in the kitchen at the Union are ?deplorable? and ?terrible.? Both point to management as the primary cause for employees? unhappiness.

?We?ve exposed the fact they (management) don?t follow OSHA guidelines. The University was pretending there were no OSHA guidelines,? Anlein said.

Particularly disconcerting to both Thomas and Anlein is that the UW has not done anything to change management?s practices at the Memorial Union despite repeated grievances filed by employees.

?Over the past year, I?ve probably represented everyone in this kitchen over a grievance,? Anlein said.

Thomas expressed hope that the situation would eventually improve. One of the ways he knows people are concerned is because of the labor groups? involvement. By publicizing the issues of Memorial Union staff, he hopes to reveal the working conditions they deal with every day.

?It just seems the UW doesn?t respect us unless there?s a public outcry,? Thomas said.

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