Student's full-time job cut by union

By Mitra Taj
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, April 13, 2004

By the time Rodrigo Ordonez had transferred to the UA from Panama, balancing work and school was already the norm for him.

Working full time in the Student Union Memorial Center, Ordonez, an electrical engineering senior, helped his parents, who operate a pig farm in Panama, pay for tuition.

Now, because business in the student union is expected to fall $3 million short of expectations for this year, Ordonez has lost his job along with three other full-time employees.

Last month marked the first time in seven years that full-time student union employees have been laid off. The student union has given them 52 days of prior notice.

"I always got some support from my parents, but not this kind of support. Now they're going to have to pay for everything," he said.

Ordonez said the news was "upsetting," considering how flexible he has been with difficult schedule changes and how willing he has been to work overtime.

David Galbraith, director of food and dining services, said he wished he didn't have to let employees go but that the layoffs were all a part of "rightsizing.

"Short of shutting an operation down, that's what we have to do," Galbraith said.

But that's hard to stomach for Ordonez, who has had to cope with drastic changes in tuition costs, from the $600 per year he paid in Panama to about $6,000 per year at the UA. Ordonez started working part time at the student union his first semester at the UA in 1999.

Ordonez began working at Louie's last spring. In September, after the add/drop period had already ended, he was moved to the Cellar, where he said the late hours he worked interfered with the morning classes he had registered for.

Ordonez said the switch took a toll on his grades.

"They've gone down," he said. "I had to get off at 4 a.m., and I had class in the morning."

Ordonez said he was moved back to Louie's this semester and then to the Cactus Grill. A day after being moved to Cactus Grill, he was laid off.

Ordonez said he started noticing business was slow in August 2003. He said he sees poor administrative decisions as the root of the unions' financial problems.

"It might be students or it might be management not working properly," he said. "They built this place too big for what they were expecting. I don't think there are that many students to come here."

Ordonez said he doesn't think employees should have to pay for administrative mistakes.

"Bosses don't really see what's going on under them," he said. "Whoever designed Louie's should be in big trouble. It's a waste of a lot of expensive equipment."

Galbraith said he blames himself for Louie's failure, and things will be changing next semester, as Louie's might be changed into a restaurant that dishes out healthier food.

Ordonez said because the people "on top" are out of touch with employees, they might make bad decisions that don't affect them.

"If we don't make their money we get laid off and not them," he said.