The independent news organization of Duke University

With first-years gone in the summer, Marketplace workers say they face challenges to find enough hours

The Class of 2022 has just flooded East Campus for the first time, but the campus is busy in the summer, too. 

During the summer, camp groups housed on East Campus are treated to the usual selection of Marketplace dishes. However, Marketplace employees typically work less during this time than the 40 hours per week they work during the school year. 

“You can never get a handle on your bills,” said Marketplace employee Valacey Bey. “You try to here and there, but it’s hard to take care of everything.”

Robert Coffey, executive director of dining services, wrote in an email to The Chronicle that union leadership and team members are given advanced notice of summer schedules. He also mentioned that employees are "offered weekly sign-up sheets to pick up additional work shifts during the summer if they choose." 

The local vendors serving in the Brodhead Center hire their employees themselves and Duke contracts with these vendors, but because Duke Dining operates Marketplace, it hires and manages the employees who work there.

In 2012, Marketplace workers' summer hours came under scrutiny when Dining considered cutting back the number of employees working there during the summer. Workers petitioned in response.

In an effort to increase hours during the summer, Duke Dining offers a sign-up sheet where workers can put their names down for extra hours, according to Charles Gooch, president of AFSCME Local 77—a union that represents Duke's service workers and housekeeping employees. 

This system potentially allows workers to reach the 40 hours that they work during the academic year, but Gooch mentioned that full-time employees usually work between 30 to 35 hours weekly in the summer months.

Gooch also said that these sign-up sheets are posted at the discretion of the manager, and not all types of jobs are always covered.

Bey noted that workers budget their finances around stretches in the summer and winter when students aren’t on campus. But with shortened hours in the summer, workers have a hard time keeping up. For example, on top of her work at Marketplace, Bey works another 40 hours at a food service job.

The uneven nature of the hours means that workers often come in on days off, creating a seven-day work week. 

“I don’t get to see [my children and grandchildren] because I’m trying to pay these bills,” said Vernessa Harrington, a Marketplace employee who has working at the dining hall for over 22 years.

Duke Dining gives employees the chance to transfer locations or even departments, Coffey noted.

Although these opportunities are attractive, they are limited to current job openings, and many long-term employees say they would rather not leave a familiar workplace. Gooch said he wants 40-hour work weeks for Marketplace employees in the summer. He added that he is also working toward better communication between himself and Duke Dining. 

Coffey wrote that Duke would “continue to work with our employees and union leadership to look for creative solutions and opportunities for summer operations.”


Share and discuss “With first-years gone in the summer, Marketplace workers say they face challenges to find enough hours” on social media.