A petition seeking increased wages and better meals for Eastern Michigan University dining students has garnered more than 300 signatures since it was launched.
On Feb. 5, EMU junior Coreena Forstner organized the petition drive. While she never really thought about an end goal, she mostly just wants to get other students to realize how horrible EDining is to its main consumers.
Forstner said she decided to start the petition on a whim while she was reflecting on the poor experiences she has had with the dining services on EMU’s campus, from “raw impossible burgers to the constant lack of options, high waiting times, and early closures of all dining locations.”
“I cannot recall a genuinely good experience with dining,” Forstner said. “The night I published the petition, the EMU Engage app was flooded with outraged students. While at the Eastern Eateries that night, I waited in a line of 20-plus students just to order. Only a single kiosk was open for the Grille (all other locations were closed), and there were only two students in the back struggling to contain the overflow of new orders. I felt enraged too, for us students who are being forced to only eat at the Grille or go hungry, and for the workers who were being forced to feed most of campus while making minimum wage.”
According to Forstner, EMU’s dining options lack sufficient meal options for students with dietary needs and restrictions.
“Lucky for me, I do not have any dietary restrictions, but for many students, it is not that easy, and the lack of access makes being fed nearly impossible,” Forstner said. “I was vegan for three years but reached my breaking point while living on campus because I was starving daily due to the lack of options for dietary-diverse students.”
The main reason Forstner wanted to start the petition is for EMU students and the dining services employees as a whole.
“While I have never worked in dining services personally, I have only heard negative things from students and coworkers who ultimately quit due to the workload and depressed wages,” Forstner said. “Many dining locations have been forced to close due to low staffing, but there is a clear solution to this issue.”
Forstner’s ultimate goal of the petition is for EDining to pay students better wages and improvements in student workers’ mental and physical health through better support.
“If students were paid what they deserved, more students would be willing to work for dining since they would have more physical support from other coworkers as well as the financial support that they deserve.” Forstner said. “To me, higher wages would solve the perpetual issue of early closings, limited locations, high wait times, incorrect meals being handed out, and the amount of undercooked, even moldy food being served.”
Forstner said that student workers deserve better conditions and support from the university.
“To the dining workers who are doing their best: I do not blame any of these issues on you. I sympathize with you and am sorry you have to work in such horrible conditions,” Forstner said in a statement. “Ultimately students and workers deserve better from their university, especially if they are being forced to spend thousands of dollars on a required meal plan while living on campus.”
While many fast-food chains such as McDonald’s and Arby’s have recently began advertising starting wages of $15 an hour on average, EDining employees all still start at minimum wage, which is currently only $9.87 in the state of Michigan.
“You get paid very little for doing a lot and selling some expensive, college-priced food and dealing with some characters that aren't the best,” said Jp Croom, an EMU student who works in the markets.
“Management was alright; some days were good, some were meh,” added Croom. “We'd have a manager around at least some of the day, though sometimes there was one around all day.”
EMU responded to the petition, saying that they are aware of it and are open to receiving feedback from student workers.
“EDining is aware of the active student petition on change.org,” Melissa Thrasher, EMU's director of Media Relations, said in a written statement. "EDining cares deeply for our team members, especially our student workers, and we are grateful for their time spent with us. We understand this semester has been especially challenging at some locations as we continue to manage labor shortages.”
There are many EDining locations throughout campus, including the Student Center Market, the Eateries, the Commons, and Mondo.
“EDining welcomes any feedback our students have with ways to support our team and our presence on campus” Thrasher said in a written statement. " We appreciate the feedback we consistently receive from EMU Engage, social media accounts, and through our text-to-solve lines. This feedback helps us grow and improve the experience for our guests. We encourage students with feedback to reach out to us directly at email@example.com.”