MILWAUKEE – For the first time in 25 years, there is a new restoration program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Students can eat at any time and as many times as they wish in the three dining halls. There is only one problem. The school does not have enough employees.
On Friday, September 2, school administrators sent faculty and staff an email asking them to volunteer their time to cook and serve food and help clean these dining halls.
On Labor Day, the head of the faculty and staff union called the effort insulting.
Owen Griffith and Kailan Patel have only been on campus for a week.
“All you can eat,” Griffith said. “You can bring food back to your dorm, have it for a late night snack.”
They said they liked the dining options and the anytime dining plan, but said on Monday they had already been turned away from a dining room.
“We just decided to go see if they had any food or anything, but they were like, ‘Oh, we don’t have any. We ran out of food,'” Patel said. “They’re understaffed. He was like, ‘We’re trying to get more staff.'”
University administrators emailed faculty and staff on Friday, first explaining that the program addresses a critical issue for many students: food insecurity. Then journalism professor Eric Lohman noticed something else.
“I was livid about it,” Lohman said.
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Teachers were asked to fill in as volunteers.
“Rather than finding a way to hire more workers to fill these roles, they just asked us to do it for free without paying overtime,” Lohman said.
Lohman is president of the union, representing faculty and staff at UWM. He said the instructors were all in favor of volunteering to help those in need while calling on school leaders to solve the problem instead of causing another one.
“There is a solution to this problem,” Lohman said. They could hire workers to work in the mess halls of the residence halls by paying them better wages and providing them with better benefits, but they are not doing it.”
FOX6 News contacted UWM on Monday for comment but did not hear back.
Lohman said the union did not plan to back down, although he said he would not be surprised if some staff members volunteered to help.