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Pay extended for 56 Row kitchen staff after student activism

Students for Workers’ Rights to distribute $100,000 in raised funds among workers

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Stanford is extending pay for 56 furloughed kitchen staff employed by Student Organized Services (SOS), a group of chefs and hashers serving on the Row, through May 3, and their benefits will be extended to the end of May, wrote SOS CEO Nick Peters in an email to his employees on April 2.

Prior to the change in course by Stanford Residential Education (ResEd), initial severance pay covered SOS employees’ lost wages between March 30 and April 10, as the University’s commitment to spring quarter pay continuation excludes subcontracted workers. The University’s position ignited community outrage and prompted several efforts among students, faculty and alumni to support workers. A Students for Workers’ Rights (SWR) fundraiser has raised more than $100,000 for SOS kitchen staff, according to an email to SOS employees from SWR.  

In addition to the extension of pay through May 3, employee benefits will be extended to the end of May, according to Peters’ email. 

Student Affairs spokesperson Pat Harris told The Daily that Stanford has no further information to provide at this time.

ResEd decided to suspend the SOS contract in March in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving Row house kitchen staff unemployed for spring quarter. ResEd initially said it would provide two weeks of compensation and benefits for SOS employees “as a gesture of gratitude and goodwill,” according to an email from Fraternity and Sorority Life (FSL) Director Amanda Rodriguez and FSL Program Manager Christopher Carter on March 20. 

In his email Peters added that he will be calculating “fair ways to see if we [SOS] can continue to help with” dependent support, upgrade cost support and bonuses for employees without coverage.

Peters called the pay extension “incredible” and “a testament to the profound upwelling of support you all [the workers] have generated from students and alumni.” 

In an interview with The Daily, an SOS employee working in a Row house kitchen who was granted anonymity said that he was overwhelmed by the support he and his coworkers have received in the past few weeks. 

“I was moved to tears,” he said. “Now it’s really sinking in just how highly everyone thinks about what we do on campus … it really does just warm the heart, makes you feel great.” 

In an interview with The Daily, SWR member Ethan Chua ’20 agreed with Peters, saying ResEd’s decision “would not have been possible without the collective action of the community.” 

To support the 56 furloughed chefs and hashers who work in row houses, on March 24 SWR launched a fundraiser via GoFundMe and Venmo for all SOS kitchen staff. 

SWR raised over $100,000, which it will divide among the 56 kitchen staff and distribute via check within the next two weeks, according to the email from SWR. SWR will give each staff member an equal baseline amount, then allocate “additional funding” to kitchen staff whose in-house fundraisers were not able to raise as much money, according to the email. 

“We are happy that the community came together to support you all when the University failed,” the email read, “but we also understand that this amount will be only a fraction of what you typically make in a quarter.”

In response to Stanford’s treatment of contracted employees amid the COVID-19 pandemic, SWR and Stanford faculty and staff also circulated respective petitions calling for the University to support all staff, including contracted employees. 

Chua said that ResEd’s decision was a welcome one. However, he expressed his frustration over the University’s decision to only extend pay for SOS employees and only for three weeks, rather than extending pay continuance for all contracted workers until the end of spring. 

“It’s of course so much better than no pay continuance,” Chua said. “But for me it just begs  the question, why just SOS? And why just May 3?”

Chua said that SWR will continue its larger campaign –– via fundraising, passing resolutions in undergraduate, graduate and faculty senates, media publicity and alumni outreach –– to put pressure on the University to assure pay continuance for all workers until the end of spring. 

Peters thanked his employees for their “patience, professionalism, dedication, and honest gratitude.” 

Peters also expressed gratitude for Vice Provost for Student Affairs Susie Brubaker-Cole, Assistant Vice Provost for ResEd Cheryl Brown, ResEd Associate Dean Cole Shiflett and SOS supporters within the Stanford community. 

“It means the world to us that we are recognized as integral to the community itself,” Peters wrote.

This article has been updated to include comments from Student Affairs spokesperson Pat Harris, SWR member Ethan Chua and an SOS employee.

Contact Alex Tsai at aotsai ‘at’ stanford.edu. 

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Alex Tsai ’21 is a senior staff writer for The Daily. Previous roles at The Daily include news desk editor and mobile app developer. Alex is majoring in Computer Science and is a member of the varsity lacrosse team. Contact her at aotsai 'at' stanford.edu.