As students at Fairfield, many of us start our days being greeted by the cashier at the Main Dining Room in the Barone Campus Center, filling our plates with food cooked and prepared by members of the Barone staff and dining with our friends. As far as University employees go, Barone workers have a significant impact on the everyday lives of students by fulfilling one of their most basic needs on a daily basis.
For many employees, working at Barone is a rewarding job because it involves interaction with the student body.
“I like dealing with the students, so far everybody is really appreciative — we don’t feel like we’re not appreciated,” said Tuti Calaf, a salad tosser at Barone, adding that the students make Barone a friendly working environment.
Cashier Elizabeth Aceetty added that one of the more beneficial parts of her job is “being able to communicate with the students and being able to help them in any case that they need,” and that the students “act [friendly] with us.”
Junior Sylvia Navarro feels that the fact that the employees have good communication with the students helps to create an inviting atmosphere in Barone.
“Every time I’m there, they’re always welcoming, and they serve me well,” Navarro said.
Sophomore Claire Davin agreed that the workers have made Barone a comfortable environment for students because “the workers do a really good job keeping the tables clean and making all the students feel really welcome when they come in.”
According to Calaf, another aspect of working at Barone that she appreciates is the way their superiors treat the employees.
“When it comes to the job, the bosses are really good. They treat us good, they work with us, we definitely have a very good team when it comes to helping each other,” she said.
Aceetty agreed, adding that “management wise, they’re very good. They understand our needs when we need something, so we have good communication with the supervisors.”
Aceetty attributed this in part to the union that the Barone staff is a part of, Local 217.
Local 217 is the union of hotel and food service workers in Connecticut and Rhode Island, according to the union’s website. The website describes the union as “an organization of workers who unite to fight for fairness and respect on the job. It is based on the simple idea that people standing together are more powerful than each single person fighting alone.”
Unlike other unions that different workers on campus are members of, such as the maintenance staff, according to Aceetty, Local 217 allows for more communication between employees and management.
“Our union is very good. They’re very interested in what the student needs are in our job, and the same thing with us,” Aceetty said.
“They’re really interested in making sure that not only do the students and the co-workers have good relationships, but also that the workers have good relationships with management,” she added.
Emma Hernandez, a Barone employee who works at Einstein’s Bros Bagels, agreed that the Local 217 works well with management. “For example, I can go talk to my boss with no problem at all. Like, if they’re for some reason messing up with our contract, we’ll go talk to them, they’ll fix it no problem,” Hernandez said.
For Resident General Manager of Barone Jay DeGioia, having strong relationships between management and the employees is important because “Our employees are the backbone of our operation, and having a good working relationship allows our students to have a seamless dining experience.”
DeGioia; however, acknowledged that these strong relationships were not built overnight and that sometimes building these ties can be difficult.
“It does take time, effort, and the commitment of mutual respect, partnered with the ability to work closely together to create a strong positive work environment,” Degioia said.
In addition, Aceetty added that the employees are never restricted as to what they can and can’t say to their superiors.
“We definitely have freedom when it comes to putting out our opinion, or what do we think should change. If you don’t feel comfortable with something, you don’t even have to wait for them to come to the building, you can just give them a call and speak about the issue,” Aceetty said. She added that employees have been able to suggest changes to the workplace in the past and management has listened and made many of these changes.
However, Hernandez mentioned that while DeGioia listens to the opinions of all the employees and has strong relationships with the workers, Barone employees weren’t always treated with respect in the workplace.
According to Hernandez, it was difficult for the workers to get along with the old general manager, who was replaced roughly three years ago by Degioia.
“We felt like we were being watched all the time, you could feel it, and as soon as this guy left, it was like a weight lifted off our shoulders,” Hernandez said of her experience working under the old general manager.
Hernandez added that the manager would refuse to follow the workers’ contract at times and didn’t work with or support the employees like the current manager does.
“Right now, if you have an emergency, they’ll work with you, but [the old manager] didn’t give a damn. It’s your problem, get to work and that’s it,” Hernandez said.
Despite this, Hernandez is glad that under the current general manager, the workers are treated more respectfully and their needs are always met by management, which, according to Hernandez, creates a more friendly working environment for the employees and students.