by ARTHUR ROBINSON
UMW’s dining hall staff has been laid off for the foreseeable future.
Junior Brianna Cornett has been working in the dining hall for a few years now, but recently was told that there was no work for her, at least for the time being. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, almost all of the dining hall staff has been told that because there are barely any students on campus that their work was no longer needed.
“All hourly employees of Sodexo, which are mostly students, were told to consider themselves laid off,” Cornett said.
However, several employees were also told that they will be able to get their jobs back whenever students are permitted back on campus. They will look to retain all the employees they’ve lost due to this global health crisis and hope to get things back to normal by next fall.
“Campus dining has always been very thoughtful towards their employees’ health and safety,” Cornett said.
There are now only 27 students on campus, and they are each given three meals per day: one boxed breakfast, one boxed lunch and a hot dinner in the evening. These meals are prepared by the managers and cooks of Sodexo.
“They kept as many people working for as long as they could, but as more students left campus, the more they had to let go because there’s nobody to serve. It also applies for employees of third party businesses on campus, like Panera, because they are all employees of Sodexo,” said CJ Porter, director of Transfer and Off Campus Student Services.
Jean Gray Barnes, who is 71 years old and has worked with campus dining for 14 years, is most concerned about the uncertainty of the future. She’s now afraid that if she were to go back to work, that she may be potentially putting her life in danger. She is also concerned that because of her age, her employer may recommend that she work somewhere else.
“I don’t know if it will ever be safe for me to work again at a place that is filled with young people who I closely interact with everyday,” said Barnes. “It’s just really sad, you know? I loved where I worked and being around my co-workers, it’s what kept me going everyday. Now, none of us have jobs and don’t even know if we’ll be able to go back to work even when this is all over. All we can do now is pray.”
Along with millions of other Americans, the Sodexo staff was told to file for unemployment for the time being. The New York Times estimates that there are roughly 16 million Americans that are unemployed right now, which is more than any other point in history, surpassing the Great Depression. They estimate the unemployment rate at around 13 percent and the US Labor Department reported that almost 10 million Americans have filed for unemployment just within the past two weeks.