Robert Griswold

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Robert Griswold lives in New York. From Denver, Colorado.

Education

Studied at Eugene Lang College

Communist Student Group

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Cafeteria occupation

In May 2018, after 45 food service workers at The New School received a notice that they were going to be laid off, hundreds of students took over the university cafeteria.

Four days later, they were still there.

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Members of the Unite Here! Local 100 union asked students to rally for them in a meeting on April 27, after an announcement made by The New School administration to replace cafeteria workers with non-union employees sparked anger within the school community.

The New School students took over the university cafeteria after its workers’ jobs were put in jeopardy, now having occupied the space for four days.

The New School had decided to end its contract with Chartwells, a multinational food-service company that employed the workers. In a letter obtained by amNewYork, the university said it had decided to self-operate its food services, a move Local 100 secretary-treasurer Jose Maldonado said was “extremely rare.”

After a petition circulated by Local 100 contesting the decision did not receive a response from the university, the students decided to take matters into their own hands. The New School Communist Student Group took up residence in a cafeteria located at 63 Fifth Ave. and demanded that every cafeteria worker’s job be saved. The group also asked for higher wages for the workers and better or equal benefits than what they were receiving under Chartwells’ contract.

On Tuesday, International Workers’ Day, students flooded the cafeteria at 11:30 a.m. At least 50 of them slept there overnight throughout the week, according to third-year student and CSG member Victoria Capraro.

“We, the students, we see [the cafeteria workers] every single day. A lot of them consider themselves mothers to us,” she said. “It’s the cafeteria workers who are asking me if I’m going to class; cafeteria workers are asking me how my day is going.”

Soon after the occupation began, workers were instructed to lock the pantry. For several days, the students pooled their money together and made a “self-sufficient” cafeteria, Capraro said. Approaching finals, several professors have come into the occupied space and taught classes, she added.

The cafeteria looked like a Soviet-style campaign office on Thursday, with signs reading “Socialism is the future” and “Protest Organize Occupy Walk Out Resist Strike Shut it Down” crowding the walls and blocking school surveillance cameras. Students nested with tarps, sleeping bags and couches dragged in from the faculty rooms. A water station read, “The revolution will not be providing sparkling water. Thank you for understanding.”

About a day and a half into the sit-in, The New School president David Van Zandt went into the occupied space and verbally promised to rehire all of the workers, according to Capraro. In an email sent shortly after, the administration vowed to offer employment to all of the workers, with “benefits equal to or better” than what they were currently receiving.

“We are not restricted by any regulations,” occupation organizer and one of CSG’s founding members, Robert Griswold, said. “We are communists and we rely on our own forces and build revolutionary worker power.”[1]

References

  1. [http://www.gopusa.com/communist-student-group-occupies-cafeteria-over-mass-layoff-threat-to-unionized-workers/?fbclid=IwAR1UECw6MZHt89t2Dif6DGqrp09Mz4uODfkxnpuw0-594uxnkUPH3l3YSiA GOPUSA Communist Student Group occupies cafeteria over mass layoff threat to unionized workers GOPUSA StaffAM New York POSTED ON 11:45 AM MAY 7, 2018]