The Tufts Labor Coalition is currently running a petition to address the decreasing quality of the dining centers’ baked goods and to earn fairer hours for Tufts baker Melissa Lee over winter recess.
Emma Holland, a TLC organizer responsible for dining worker outreach, said the petition is a part of their larger “Bring Baking Home” campaign, which is a response to changes in Tufts bakeries. She said that back in 2019, there were five dedicated bakers working at Tufts dining centers, and all baked goods were produced in house.
“Fast forward to 2022, there [are] only two bakers total. Only one of them is one of those original [bakers] from 2019,” she said. “A lot of goods are being outsourced and they’re stored frozen until they’re ready to be served, which means the allergy regulations are not necessarily as good because we can't really track how they're being prepared.”
Patrick Collins, Tufts’ executive director of media relations, confirmed the university’s receipt of the petition.
“We have received the petition from TLC and have referred it to the appropriate parties for review,” he wrote in an email to the Daily.
Holland said the first goal of the petition is to help baker Melissa Lee earn more job security over winter recess. Lee has been working at Tufts since March.
“Because she’s new, she’s what’s considered a non-legacy employee,” Holland said. “And part of what that means is that they don’t have to pay her over recess. So over fall break or winter break … she’s not contractually obligated to have paid time off.”
According to Lee, she will be scheduled just four working hours a day during winter break but has not been told when she will start her shifts. The petition demands Lee gets the opportunity to work a full 40 hours per week.
“I need more hours because the winter break is long,” Lee said. “I’m of course not happy. … Maybe I need to find a part-time job or something else. … I need to save money.”
Lee described how, in the past, dining hall management required her to make excess baked goods to be frozen down and served during breaks.
“When they need, they just take out [the frozen goods] and then they don’t let me work,” she said. “You need guys in the spring break to bring out fresh food for the students.”
Holland said that the petition’s second and third goals are for more transparency about the outsourcing of baked goods and to ultimately end that outsourcing.
“Tufts University hasn’t really been very transparent about these changes,” she said. “It’s not like Tufts has lost funding, right, they still have the same amount of money to pay for the goods and the ingredients.”
The petition’s final goal, according to Holland, “is that Tufts gets back to a total of five bakers by next semester.” It also asks that one of the five original bakers from 2019, Raymond Cormier, is promoted to head baker. He has been a Tufts dining worker for the last 21 years.
“The amount of production is a lot right now, between me and the other baker,” Cormier said. “I mean, it’s just way too much for us. … Hiring more staff members would allow [us to make] different products for the students, different pastries, and things like that. … We could do more breads, we could do more rolls, [and] we could do more éclairs. … If we did that, now, it would kill me. It would actually kill me because it'd be too much work.”
Raymond said that only having two bakers creates a severe problem when one has to call out sick.
“[If Lee] calls out sick, then I have to do all that work,” he said. “I have nobody else to help me. There was one week I called out sick because I had the flu, so she had to do it all by herself. … That’s why we need more bakers.”
Cormier said that after management required them to change their recipes, students consumed far less of their baked goods. He said, for example, they used to make over 16 sheets of cornbread and other baked goods for events at the Dewick and Carmichael dining centers. Now, he said they are lucky to go through just three sheet pans.
“[The students] noticed right away,” he said. “We used to make almost 26 to 32 dozen cupcakes. Now we don't even make any.”
TLC met with Patti Klos, Tufts’ director of dining and business services, on Dec. 5 and asked for a response to their petition by Dec. 14.