Instagram account calls for increased wages for dining services staff


By Kaitlin Ahern, Contributing Writer

Across eight dining facilities, for up to nineteen hours a day for seven days a week, dining service employees support the Lafayette College community. With a labor shortage of nearly 50 positions according to Vice President of Finance and Administration Roger Demareski, employees are being spread beyond their capacity.   

The Instagram account @PayLafDining is hoping to raise awareness about this issue. 

“The purpose of @PayLafDining is to raise awareness and money in response to the influx of challenges that the dining staff has faced this year,” the owner of the account, who wishes to remain anonymous, wrote in a message to The Lafayette. “Up to the point of the creation of the account, we had heard many stories from disgruntled staff workers as well as students who complained about adjusted hours and longer wait times.” 

The account owner noted that the dining staff is often overlooked at the school, despite their constant hard work.

“Dining staff members are some of the most overworked staff employed by the school, yet have little compensation to show for their hard work,” the account owner wrote.

In addition to asking the school for added compensation during the labor shortage, the owner asks that students treat the staff with respect, kindness and patience. As far as increased compensation goes, the account owner is hopeful.

“The staff’s pay was recently increased to [be] greater than the average [of] off-campus jobs. Although this seems to be positive on paper, the service industry makes a large percentage of their wages through tips, something which the on-campus staff does not receive and the Trolley Stop staff receives only a fraction of compared to a normal off-campus establishment,” the account owner wrote. “It is this loss that we are looking to supplement with our fundraising.”

Demareski, further explained this wage increase. 

“In the beginning of the summer, we increased all rates for dining services, both in response to mandates by the state government on a livable wage and also the competitive market for hiring [in response to the labor shortage],” Demareski said.

He noted the decision to increase dining service wages was not just to accommodate state laws. In fact, he attributed much of the pay increase to student activists. Recently, Lafayette College’s Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee met with administrators to make sure that fair, livable wages are given to all school employees. This prompted Bon Appetit, the school’s on-campus food service provider, to do an internal review of pay structures. This review is an ongoing process, and Demareski maintained that the school would continue to monitor pay to make adjustments and increases accordingly. 

General Manager of Bon Appetit Management Company, Christopher Brown, also weighed in on this issue. 

“With supply chain disruptions and challenges with hiring, I think all Dining Services employees have experienced additional stress as a result of the pandemic. It has been a trying time for all of us,” Brown said. “So much work and care goes into cooking from-scratch food for the Lafayette Community every day; we’re truly thankful for each and every one of our employees.”

Brown noted that employees that want to negotiate pay should reach out to their confidential human resource hotline.

“In addition to encouraging employees to speak with their direct manager about any concerns, we also have a confidential human resource hotline to discuss issues of any kind if they’re not comfortable bringing issues to our attention directly,” he explained.

@PayLafDining plans on continuing to raise awareness and support for dining staff. In coordination with the dining staff, the account intends to host fundraisers and sell merchandise where the proceeds will go directly towards helping staff members. 

The increase of pay from the state’s minimum wage to what the college defines as a livable wage is a great start, but the account maintains that it’s just that: a start. Going forward, they hope that dining service employees are compensated for the money they do not make through tips.

The account’s message for anyone wondering if they plan on continuing their mission is a simple: “We’re hungry!”