The City University of New York (CUNY) is the largest public university system in the United States. CUNY relies on third-party contractors and subcontractors to provide food services in cafeterias and coffee shops for its thousands of staff members and hundreds of thousands of students across 24 campuses. Many of those food service workers experience employment issues without union protections.
The Retail Action Project (RAP) conducted by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union recently released survey results regarding working conditions in many of CUNY's food service locations. RAP solicited survey answers from 450 food service workers from 14 campuses. The survey results are based on the answers from 111 workers—about 25 percent—employed by ten separate food service contractors.
The survey's less than positive responses raised alarm among the CUNY board. Because the answers came from employees of different vendors, there is not one particular contractor to blame. Instead, the issues stem largely from CUNY's food contracting policies and processes, which currently include a lack of accountability of food service contractors to provide proper working environments for employees and comply with employment and wage laws.
Working Conditions in CUNY Food Service
Many of the survey conclusions involved how CUNY can improve its relationship with its food service workers to ensure greater dignity among the workforce. Many workers reported an inability to afford food for their families, having to work more than one job, or not receiving a raise—other than based on an increased minimum wages—during their employment. Only seven of the 111 respondents have health insurance benefits through their jobs.
While these results indicate less-than-desirable working conditions, they do not necessarily indicate specific employment law violations on the part of CUNY vendors.
The survey results, however, did report violations of both New York State and federal employment and wage laws, including:
- More than 25 percent of respondents claimed they worked off the clock without compensation or that they did not receive time-and-a-half wages for working more than 40 hours per week. These are both violations of wage and hour laws, which require that employers pay employees for all time worked and overtime rates for hours worked in excess of 40 per week.
- Nineteen percent reported suffering injuries at work, often due to health and safety violations.
- At a public hearing in November, about 25 food service workers testified regarding incidents of harassment and discrimination, which is a violation of Title VII, New York Human Rights Law, and other anti-discrimination laws.
Contact a New York City Wage and Employment Attorney for Help Today
Employees in the private sector are protected against wage, hour, and other employment law violations—and enjoy important rights if violations occur. If you believe your employer violated your rights, please contact Braverman Law PC by calling (212) 206-8166 or contact attorney Adam Braverman online for more information.