On March 8, food workers at Saint Mary’s College of California in Moraga became the newest campus dining workers to join UNITE HERE Local 2850 in the East and North Bay. The seventy employees of Sodexo at Saint Mary’s cook and serve food to students, faculty and Lasallian Christian Brothers in Oliver Dining Hall, Café Louis, and the catering service on this campus tucked into the green hills east of Oakland.
Workers organizing for a voice on the job is consistent with the college’s Lasallian Catholic mission, which includes a commitment to social justice and respect for all persons. Saint Mary’s dining workers organized with support from a broad coalition of students, professors, Lasallian Brothers, alumni, clergy, and other community allies.
"Many of us have worked here for many years, and we decided to organize for respect and fairness," said Jose Alvarado, a dishwasher in the Saint Mary’s dining hall. "I’m very happy to have had the support of so many people who stood with us – especially the students, who have always told us how much they appreciate our hard work. It has been wonderful to have them with us as we organized to win the union." Student Brenda Martinez said, "I got involved in the Sodexo workers’ organizing because it was the right thing to do. The workers deserve the same respect that I receive as a student at Saint Mary’s."
Just a few weeks earlier, on February 19, Saint Mary’s alumna Maria Elena Durazo visited campus and spoke about worker organizing and immigration reform. Durazo is Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and an Executive Vice President of both UNITE HERE and the national AFL-CIO. She made a special trip to her alma mater in the middle of a national speaking tour on immigration reform, and received a warm welcome and standing ovation from close to 200 students, faculty, community members, and elected officials who attended the event.
Durazo described the conversation about immigrant workers’ rights that took place that night as "fundamentally about the kind of community Saint Mary’s is and the values it cherishes." In keeping with those values, dining workers at Saint Mary’s College have joined the union. "The workers are proof that it is necessary to stand up for ourselves," said student Ariana Alvarez, "that we are stronger when we are united, and that nothing is impossible."
Welcome to UNITE HERE! ¡Sí Se Pudo!