Three months after its creation, the Culinary Support Center continues to draw ire from Yale Dining employees.
In mid-September, Local 35 — Yale’s blue-collar union — filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations board, alleging that the University breached its contract with the union by failing to negotiate before unilaterally changing the terms and conditions of employment for many of its union members. According to the NLRB’s website, the case is still open. Local 35 President Bob Proto said the union is awaiting a decision, but that little has changed since the complaint was filed.
But workers at the CSC suggested that changes may be afoot.
Five head pantry workers interviewed reported rumors that they would soon be returned to their units in the residential colleges. But multiple Yale Dining administrators and project managers, including those specifically in charge of the CSC, did not return repeated requests for comment, including questions about whether the rumors could be substantiated.
Any move back to the residential colleges for head pantry workers would follow harsh criticisms of the CSC from Yale Dining employees, although administrators have consistently defended the facility.
Though no jobs were lost in the creation of the CSC — descriptions were only altered — Yale Dining employees interviewed said that the move has resulted in repeated disappointment and a growing distrust in both Yale Dining and the University at large.
Administrators have consistently defended the facility, but head pantry workers, as well as the union that supports them, have leveled a host of critiques of the CSC, ranging from lower food quality to poor working conditions.
“They shoved us up on the outskirts of campus in a refrigerated room, and we’re forgotten about,” said one head pantry worker.
All head pantry workers interviewed requested their identities be kept anonymous, fearing retribution if their names were published.
When head pantry workers arrived at the CSC in mid-August, they said the site hardly resembled a place that embodied the center’s purported slogan, “Fresher is Better.” Instead, head pantry workers interviewed said they found wires dangling from the ceiling, unfinished paint jobs and cramped workspaces.
According to chief steward for Local 35 Meg Riccio, it did not take long for working conditions to take a personal toll.
“There are no windows, no break room, no locker rooms — it’s very, very depressing,” Riccio said.
According to one of the women relocated to the CSC, all of the head pantry workers were divided into groups that rotate every three weeks. Each group is designated to prepare one element of the total cold food production, such as composed salads or deli items.
Those interviewed cite one main issue with the new system — that the constant rotation undermines the CSC’s original purpose.
“The big thing was supposed to be consistency in every college because there were complaints that it wasn’t the same everywhere,” one of the pantry workers said. “I don’t see where the continuity is going to come in when we [rotate] and then somebody else is making the salads.”
Hanna Karimipour ’17 said she thought the pre-made salads had decreased in quality this year.
“It seems like the food is moving back,” Karimipour said. “I know Yale prides itself in having sustainable food productions, but I think the centralization of a lot of the food isn’t really helping that.”
Karimipour added that despite the seeming decline in quality, she thought Yale’s food is still above average compared to other schools.
Others interviewed said the salad bar is at its all-time low, and the decrease in quality has brought fewer healthy options.
Emily Baczyk ’17 said she has become particularly disappointed in the salad bar in Silliman, which previously had been highly regarded throughout campus.
Silliman chef Stuart Comen — who authored a public letter in September decrying changes in Yale Dining — said he thinks the University has been unresponsive in the hopes that eventually, tensions will subside.
“There’s no communication or nothing like ‘Let’s sit down and talk about CSC,’” Comen said.