The new crown jewel of the University of Wisconsin is located on University Ave and North Randall Ave and is known as the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery. The building was constructed through the combined funds of the State of Wisconsin, the private Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), and a private donation from the Morgridge family. Each group contributed $50 million dollars, and the result is a building that is owned 30% by the University and 70% by WARF.
While this building may be absolutely beautiful and represent an incredible potential for research at the University, the inside contains worker exploitation and a shift in community standards.
The food services jobs in this building, made up of three different restaurants and cafes, are being contracted out to the private Food Fight Inc. All other blue-collar employees on campus – 1,600 food services, custodial, and groundskeeping jobs, among others – are represented by the American Federation for State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 171. This union representation guarantees workers a living wage and benefits, and the chance for a long-term family-supporting job. Food Fight Inc. employees non-represented workers and offers wages of less than $9 an hour to people working 40 hours a week. Those in power argue that WARF, who has contracted out Food Fight Inc., is not bound by the customs of the University to follow these labor practices in their hiring and that their actions of lowering the standard of living in Dane County is perfectly permissible.
AFSCME Local 171, along with other groups on campus such as the Student Labor Action Coalition, have been attempting to contact Food Fight Inc. to come to a compromise, but their voices have yet to be responded to. The University and WARF have also been contacted multiple times and have responded with patronizing retorts.
AFSCME Local 171, in solidarity with multiple campus and community groups, including the Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice, is campaigning for worker justice for the food service workers at the new Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery. This means a living wage, healthcare, and job security. This means Union representation.
Please consider writing the following to encourage the support of union representation for workers at the new Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery:
Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF)
Carl Gulbrandsen, Director
614 Walnut Street, 13th floor
Madison, WI 53726
Phone: Contact his assistant, Kristi Sullivan, at (608) 263-2824
University of Wisconsin
Biddy Martin, Chancellor
161 Bascom Hall
500 Lincoln Drive
Madison, WI 53706
Phone: (608) 262-9946
Food Fight Restaurant Group
2002 Atwood Avenue, Suite 208
Madison, WI 53704
Phone: (608) 246-2719