Pitzer Student Employees Affected by New Labor Law

To comply with California labor laws, Pitzer College has tightened policies regarding student employment this year: Any on-campus entities that sell products at a profit must pay all of their workers.

The California Fair Employment and Housing Act was amended in 2014 to prohibit the use of volunteers and unpaid interns for work that others are regularly paid to do. The amendment went into effect in 2015.

The Grove House and the Shakedown Café, two on-campus eateries at Pitzer, employed volunteer workers along with work-study workers.

“Having two students perform the same job, one as an employee and one as a volunteer, could create a de facto employment relationship for the volunteer,” Pitzer Director of Human Resources Marni Bobich said.

As the Shakedown and the Grove House have relied heavily on volunteers in the past, managers of both have expressed concerns about the effects of the new law.

“Honestly, we’re not sure how we’re going to transfer leadership in the future now that our volunteers are going to be so limited,” said Kainan Miranda PZ ‘17, one of the Shakedown’s managers. “We used to draw a lot of leadership from volunteers. It’s now going to be harder to find those types of good leaders.”

Zenia Gutierrez, the service manager of the Grove House, expressed similar concerns.

“Some of the really key employees were volunteers who put in a lot of above-and-beyond work,” Gutierrez said.

Since the Shakedown is considered a club, it receives a loan from Pitzer Student Senate of  $6,000 at the beginning of each school year, far less than the $45,000 the Grove House receives from the school.

According to Chance Kawar PZ ’17, student senate secretary and chairman of the student organizations committee, Pitzer Student Senate amended its bylaws this year to allow the Shakedown to pay their workers using student activities fees. The amendment will remain in effect until the end of the fall semester.

“We came to a lot of compromises, and personally I feel pretty comfortable with the bylaws set now,” Kawar said. “But there’s a lot of work to be done.”

Now that the Shakedown and the Grove House must pay all their workers, both eateries may need to raise the prices of products, according to Gutierrez and Miranda.

“It is going to take a toll on our cost, because now all our products cost more,” Gutierrez said. “We don’t want to bring our prices up because it’s not affordable for students.”

It will also be more difficult for the Shakedown to uphold its standard of providing local, sustainable, and organic food, according to Miranda.

“For now we have to go back a little on our sourcing standards,” Miranda said. “We’re not going back too much, but we’re finding ways to do things cheaper for what we can do.”

Despite the changes to their budgets, both the Shakedown and the Grove House welcome students to participate in the events and community building activities they host.

“We are here for students first and forememost,” Gutierrez said.

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