On Wednesday Sept. 22, workers at the 64 Degrees dining hall in Roger Revelle College began a week-long strike against alleged poor working conditions imposed by Housing Dining Hospitality. Workers pointed to the use of the Triton2Go app and a lack of training and staff by HDH before the start of the 2021–22 academic year as the cause of their overwhelming workloads.
In interviews with The UCSD Guardian, three 64 Degrees workers — two student workers and one career employee — shared their experiences and why they decided to go on strike. The career employee requested to remain anonymous as she is still employed at 64 degrees; she will be referred to as Susan.
Susan and one of the student workers, Diana Estrada, a Thurgood Marshall College senior, explained that during Week 0, as students started to return to campus, the use of the Triton2Go app overwhelmed workers as 100 to 200 orders were placed simultaneously.
“It’s never been this bad. The Wednesday [Sept. 22] before classes started, that’s when we went on strike,” Estrada said. “The day before that, Tuesday night [Sept. 21] — it was really, really rough that night.”
Estrada went on to state that on Tuesday Sept. 21, the tablets receiving online orders from Triton2Go broke down and student workers were forced to write down hundreds of orders by hand. Afterwards, the tablets stopped working completely and they could not see what orders were being placed. They had to wait for students arriving to pick up their orders to ask them what they wanted and prepare the food then.
The tablets, which would usually be shut off 15 minutes before closing, were not shut off until the closing time on Tuesday. Student leaders did not go home until 11:30 p.m., 1.5 hours past their shift.
“I didn’t get home that night,” Estrada said. “At that time there’s no buses…”
The next day, student workers did not go to work. Due to the lack of staff, HDH filled their spots with workers from different markets as well as HDH management themselves. During this period, they turned off all online ordering through the app.
“I believe [that day] they realized it’s not fair,” Estrada said. “That the online ordering system doesn’t work for in-person classes especially with the population of students we have on-campus at the moment.”
Estrada, along with the help of another student worker Emily Jeong, a sophomore at Marshall College, worked on writing emails and a strike proposal to HDH, outlining worker complaints, some of which included:
- Opening all stations when there’s not enough staff
- Part-time student workers going past the 20-hour limit
- Students not taking breaks due to the high volume of orders
- Dangerous work conditions causing injuries for student workers and careers
An additional obstacle for workers is the use of Triton2Go app, which debuted in September 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to avoid long lines and crowding at dining halls. It allows users to place orders on the app and pick up the food once it’s ready, but as in-person classes have returned, there have been hour-long waits to receive food orders placed through the app.
While the app was a helpful solution during the pandemic, workers say that it doesn’t work for in-person ordering as it allows for hundreds of orders to come in at once, leaving them with little time to prepare the food.
“HDH decided to stay with a system that worked during quarantine and the pandemic, but I don’t think they thought through that students are gonna come back and the system won’t work with a lot of students,” Estrada stated. “So that’s why there were such long wait times, students weren’t even getting the food they ordered.”
When workers requested to shut off the tablets in order to catch up and prepare the orders they had already received, they were allegedly told by HDH management that they were not allowed to do so.
Estrada and Jeong went on to share that they felt HDH did not hire enough workers in preparation for Fall Quarter.
“HDH was fully aware that we were not prepared or fully staffed to run at full capacity,” added Estrada. “During a meeting I recall them telling us that we were not going to open all stations at the same time because we did not have the staff to do so. Yet HDH went back on their word and went ahead and opened all stations starting Week 0.”
The Guardian reached out to HDH in regards to the strike and the lack of workers in dining halls, and received the following response:
“It is typical for the dining team to increase staffing from summer to fall quarter as students return,” stated Leslie Sepuka, the Associate Director of University Communications. “The pandemic has presented the challenge of a national labor shortage that has impacted the food and beverage industry, including university dining programs, but fortunately, the university has been able to quickly assess what is needed to minimize impacts, and increase staffing numbers.”
“The university has hired and onboarded more full-time dining staff members and dining student employees who started last [week] and this week, and hopes to see a similar trend for the upcoming weeks as well,” Sepuka added.
Under these conditions, worker retention is a major problem. Many who get hired by HDH to work in the dining halls quit shortly after experiencing the environment. Jeong has already made the decision to quit working at 64 Degrees and said that a number of other students and careers are also considering leaving.
The strike ended on Wednesday Sept. 29 and succeeded in inducing HDH to make immediate changes including shutting off Triton2Go ordering at 64 degrees. HDH has responded to strikers that they are continuing to work on “implementing long-term changes to support students.”
Photo via Housing Dining Hospitality
Editor’s note: This article was updated on Oct. 15 10:22 a.m to correct who participated in the strike