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The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

City Eats workers successfully bargain for higher wages

A tentative agreement was reached between City Eats union workers and Sodexo for a pay increase
Rally+attendees+march+to+City+Eats+Dining+Center+during+the+SEIU-USWW+rally+on+March+20%2C+2024.+%28Natalie+Rocha+%2F+Golden+Gate+Xpress%29
Natalie Rocha
Rally attendees march to City Eats Dining Center during the SEIU-USWW rally on March 20, 2024. (Natalie Rocha / Golden Gate Xpress)

A wave of purple SEIU-USWW union shirts covered Malcolm X Plaza on March 20 as City Eats workers anxiously rallied around 60 students to build support, hours before successfully bargaining and attaining a wage raise.

Members of the League of Filipino Students and GABRIELA at San Francisco State University chanted, cheered and held signs supporting City Eats workers.

City Eats workers took the stage, thanked students for making it out to the event and expressed their gratitude for the support they have gotten from the two student organizations in the past month.

Quickly after that, rally cries of “The people united will never be defeated!” and “Ain’t no power like the power of the union, cause the power of the union don’t stop!” echoed across campus as the crowd mobilized into a march from Malcolm X Plaza to the student dining hall.

The negotiations commenced around 1 p.m., and students enthusiastically cheered on the bargaining team before they departed from the crowd. Students from the rally then went into City Eats donning their purple union T-shirts in an act of solidarity and support.

Megan Murphy, a graduate of SFSU’s cinema program and a member of GABRIELA, expressed appreciation for workers’ labor and recognized the interconnectedness of student concerns with those of City Eats workers. She notably referred to City Eats workers as the essential “backbone” of the university.

“Seeing all the issues that we face as students — from the tuition raises, the different budget cuts to all of our classes — it’s not separate from what the workers in City Eats are facing. It’s all ultimately related to the same systems of people trying to oppress folks,” Murphy said. “Seeing the connection between that and seeing that we’re fighting the same fight. So that’s why we need to come together as students and workers to show support for each other.”

City Eats has been negotiating a better wage contract with its owner, Sodexo, a multinational food service and facilities management company, since late February, when a tentative agreement was reached on eight items excluding a wage increase. This prompted City Eats workers to reach out for student support for the first time.

Negotiations did not advance at the anticipated pace, so a government mediator was present at the bargaining table.

In a previous mobilization on Feb. 12, City Eats workers handed out SEIU-USWW union shirts in front of City Eats to spread the word. This way, momentum began to build around wage bargaining, and a petition was circulated asking students to stand in solidarity with them.

Rally attendees prepare signs to show solidarity with City Eats employees at the SEIU-USWW rally on March 20, 2024, at Malcolm X Plaza. (Natalie Rocha / Golden Gate Xpress) (Natalie Rocha)

Considering City Eats serves primarily first-year students in freshman housing, it caught the attention of many students in the surrounding dorms.

First-year housing requires students to have meal plans — these communities include Village at Centennial Square, Towers Junior Suites, Towers at Centennial Square, Mary Park Hall and Mary Ward Hall.

“It’s really unfair that they have to be asking for a livable wage. That’s not something someone should be asking for,” said Valerie Rodriguez, a first-year political science major.“I think it should just be a natural given, and they’re here from super early in the morning to late at night. It’s unfair that they’re not even getting paid the bare minimum.” 

Around 6 p.m., negotiations were finished, and all parties agreed on a higher wage.

Catherine Calasanz, a cashier and front of the house at City Eats, expressed her gratitude for the student support shown to her and her colleagues.

“With the students’ help and support, we were able to get a very good deal,” Calasanz said. “This is the first time that it happened, that we have actions like this. I’ve been here for almost 16 years now and this is the first time that happened and I’m glad we did it. I was scared of going to the students, asking [for] their support — but after this, that experience taught me a lot of things and I’m really grateful that you guys [students] are behind us.”

Susana Elep, a cashier, food service vendor and barista for Bricks — an extension of City Eats located in Mary Ward Hall that was also part of SEIU-USWW’s bargaining efforts — added to Celasanz’s sentiments about students.

“I’m really grateful that your support — the student support — really gives us big help and I love them. We only have a short time; maybe one of these days we can celebrate and share with them,” Elep said.

Due to the negotiations not being officially ratified, specific numbers for the wage increase were unavailable.

City Eats workers currently make between $18.07 and $27.10, depending on their positions.

The wage increase will be ratified on April 3 at 2:30 p.m.

Elep and Calasanz, pleased with their victory, expressed a keen interest in collaborating with other unions on campus, such as the California Faculty Association and Teamsters. They hope to one day unite forces and negotiate aligned contracts that would benefit all the employees contributing to the university.

Eugenia Gutierrez, coordinator of SEIU-USWW, was present during bargaining, expressed contentment with the results, and was impressed by student efforts.

“When you see young people really rooting for the underdog — we’re hoping that we’re shaping them to fight for what’s right. That’s the biggest faith that I have,” she said.

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About the Contributors
Cami Dominguez
Cami Dominguez, Staff Reporter
Cami Dominguez (they/them) is a staff reporter for Golden Gate Xpress. They are majoring in journalism with a minor in political science. Cami has long had an interest in politics and, thus, local and grass-roots organizing. Born and raised in San Diego, California, they have previously been a staff writer in high school for Pulse Magazine, Canyon Crest Academy's publication. In their free time, they love binge-watching shows they have watched before, hyper-curating specific Spotify playlists, and snuggling up with any Sally Rooney book.
Natalie Rocha
Natalie Rocha, Staff Reporter
Natalie Rocha (she/her) is a staff writer at Golden Gate Xpress. She’s a journalism major with a minor in international relations. She was born and raised in the Salinas Valley where her interest in reporting began and she transferred to SF State. Last semester, Natalie studied abroad in Denmark at the Danish School of Media and Journalism where she covered stories on crime and the EU. In her free time, Natalie enjoys eating food, spending time with her family and hanging out with friends.

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