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viewpoint

Workers are not invisible

| Friday, February 27, 2015

I am writing this article in order to shed some light on a recent unfortunate event, which would otherwise remain unnoticed and unaddressed in its everyday occurrence. But first let me say something about myself. I am a South Dining Hall worker. I have not been working there long – around six weeks, actually – but those six weeks have been enough to allow me to realize the gross injustice that is done to the dining hall staff by the student body.

Now, I must clarify that I am not simply a rookie dining hall worker venting some personal indignation because of the offhand treatment by a fellow student I may have received. It is not that. I could dismiss any sort of treatment like this insofar as it is only directed towards me. But I will speak up every time this injustice happens to someone who cannot easily defend him or herself. Therefore, in this instance I feel that it is part of my civic duty to provide a voice for the workers lost in our peripheries, Notre Dame’s non-student full-time and part-time workers, those from whom we don’t often hear.

This past week I witnessed a horrifying event as I worked alongside the full-time worker who oversees the station I work. As my station supervisor – friend, colleague and fellow worker – was doing one aspect of her responsibilities, making sure the counters are clean, a student walked up and – accidentally, I hope – spilled some food on the counter my fellow worker had just cleaned up. She saw this and groaned at the mess that appeared where she had just finished cleaning. Now, this doesn’t sound too bad, and in all honesty, it is not. Accidents happen, and all of the dining hall workers I know would understand this and be willing to clean it up. After all, it is our job to take care of such things. What is not, and should never be, acceptable is the way the student responded to her grumble at seeing the newly-made mess. He rudely responded with something along the lines of, “What? It’s not like it takes you more than two seconds to clean it up again?” My colleague was not pleased at all, but she recused herself from the situation and cleaned it up without another word.

I feel it is necessary to bring this disrespectful scene, which is representative of many other ill-mannered ways students interact with the dining hall staff, to the attention of the larger student body in order for them to understand dining hall workers are not invisible people.

I am not accusing all students of treating workers in this manner. In fact, most students are more than courteous and thankful. But there is a minority within the student body that desperately needs to understand that simply because a worker is paid to work for the dining hall — or any other place in this University — does not mean they should be treated with the insolence and arrogance of some high-and-mighty students.

This is not simply a problem within the dining hall. Rather, it is a problem with privileged people’s paradigm of the real world and the roles of the proletariat in a functioning society. For example, the other day I witnessed a horrifying thread on Yik Yak. Someone lamented the bitter weather conditions the Campus Crossroads construction workers must be experiencing and went so far as to suggest they should receive a raise for their hard work and efficiency in this harsh weather. This post was prompted by the University’s announcement that commencement would be returned to the stadium due to the expedient work of the construction workers (in light of the mild winter).

The thread, as opposed to the actual post, disdainfully exclaimed that the workers should not be paid any more for simply doing their job. After all, the responses said, it is their job to construct, and they should not be rewarded for efficiently constructing in harsh weather conditions, because if they didn’t like those conditions they could simply find another job without them. I am not saying the workers should receive a raise, since I am not aware of the logistics of such a move, but I mention this to lament the unfortunate responses of some of my fellow students. This paradigm has unfortunately been ingrained in the minds of many students, not just at this University, but those of the entire country.

If these students cannot understand that the workers who allow for our daily lives to function should be respected and appreciated for their hard work, then I fear for the future of Notre Dame’s current generation. Therefore I am focusing on the actions of my fellow students because I feel that it is the smallest circle to which I can make this injustice known.

We are all privileged to be here, and after we graduate, we will continue to interact with people very similar to those employed by Notre Dame Food Services. We need to understand that we have been blessed with the privilege of having our dining halls cleaned and our projects constructed by people who are not in our position. If someone is being paid to facilitate our lifestyles, that does not mean we can abuse our privilege and show them an additional disrespectful attitude . We must come to understand the human dignity and importance of everyone’s role in society. We must understand this and be thankful, but most importantly of all, we must know we are not better or more important than our blue-collar brothers and sisters.

 

Cesar Hernandez

sophomore

Political Science, Theology

Fisher Hall

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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  • Nathan

    Having worked alongside the SDH staff for 3 years now on several positions, I agree 100%. Many of these workers are doing mind-numbingly dull work for 8+ hours a day, seven days a week, so that we the student body can enjoy our meals. While I have never seen an episode anywhere near as bad as what you described, I want to echo the sentiment that the dining hall staff deserve every student’s courtesy at the bare minimum.

    In general, next time you pass one of the workers, tell them thank you for their hard work. From experience, it means the absolute world to them.