For the last decade, workers at Epicurean and Company have been pleading for help against an employer seemingly uninterested in treating them fairly. Georgetown University is long past due to take up the workers’ cause by investigating Epicurean’s labor practices.

Historically, Epicurean has underpaid, threatened and generally mistreated its employees. The company’s substandard practices have allegedly continued through its recent acquisition of Bulldog Tavern. Georgetown, which oversees Epicurean’s contract with Bulldog and thus is responsible for ensuring the company follows strict employee protection policies, should demonstrate a commitment to workers’ rights by calling for a full investigation of Epicurean’s management.

By allowing Epicurean to take control of Bulldog Tavern, Georgetown has ignored the company’s appalling and well-documented history of workers’ rights violations. Further, Epicurean’s expanded domain on campus has exposed Georgetown’s inadequate methods of enforcing its own standards for employees.

In 2013, Chang Wook Chon, who owned Epicurean at the time, pleaded guilty to criminal contempt in a case involving alleged mistreatment of several employees. According to the suit, four employees claimed Chon failed to fully compensate them for their hours worked then threatened to report the employees to immigration authorities if they continued communicating with attorneys.

The year before, a judge found that Epicurean had stolen wages from four employees. By the time the matter had been resolved, 12 workers received compensation for unpaid wages dating back to 2007.

Epicurean has failed to leave these insidious practices in the past. Last month, UNITE HERE Local 23, the labor union representing Aramark employees, sued Epicurean for failing to offer workers jobs when ownership of Bulldog Tavern changed hands in July.

The workers have since been offered jobs, but their wages are in open violation of Georgetown’s own policies: Tipped workers will make $3.89 hourly, far less than the $10 to $12 they made under Aramark, while cooks will receive $14 per hour.

Georgetown’s Just Employment Policy, which outlines standards for wages, unionization and other labor issues, maintains that all Georgetown workers should be compensated at $16.77 per hour.

The university had a responsibility to do all that it could when making the crucial decision of assigning Bulldog’s contract. Marking a desire to protect Epicurean from the scrutiny it clearly deserves, Georgetown did not consult the Advisory Committee for Business Practices while this contract was being approved.

“The University cares little about our input,” ACBP member Chad Gasman (COL ’20)wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Student representatives to [the ACBP] have been given little to no information.”

In direct contradiction to the lawsuit, Georgetown contests the union’s allegations, claiming the Bulldog Tavern workers formerly employed by Aramark were treated in accordance with university policy.

“All Aramark hourly employees employed at Bulldog Tavern were offered positions in other Aramark food service locations on campus,” Rachel Pugh, the university’s director for strategic communications, wrote in an email to The Hoya.

By allowing Epicurean to expand its reach, Georgetown has allowed workers to be subjected to outright mistreatment. This concern is, unfortunately, familiar.During a 2016 blizzard and ensuing four-day weekend, many of Georgetown’s dining and facilities employees remained on campus. While senior-level management officials were given rooms in the Georgetown University Hotel and Conference Center or nearby Rosslyn Marriott, many facilities workers were given only a blanket and pillow and expected to sleep on benches or floors in campus buildings.

The same year, multiple employees of Georgetown’s bookstore — one of whom had worked there for over 30 years — lost their jobs when Barnes & Noble took control from Follett, an educational products distributor. Georgetown failed to enforce the JEP then, but it has a chance to ensure compliance now.

Georgetown has acknowledged that workers at Bulldog Tavern are entitled to the same protections as university employees. However, current methods of assessing JEP compliance are inadequate and do not equip Georgetown to ensure its contracts are being enforced.

Workers are encouraged to call a Georgetown hotline in cases of JEP violations. While this policy may protect Georgetown from oversight criticisms, it does little to hold employers accountable. By deferring to the hotline as a solution for potential workers’ rights abuses, Georgetown abdicates responsibility, adding to the burden of already aggrieved workers.

To avoid another instance of mistreatment of the people who keep campus operating, Georgetown should call for an audit of Epicurean, including the ongoing situation at Bulldog Tavern.

The committee performing this audit should include expert faculty and engaged students, such as members of the ACBP. Most importantly, though, the voices of university workers must be heavily considered as the university investigates potential violations of its own policies. Employees of Epicurean — and Georgetown’s on-campus workers in general — have waited for university action for far too long.

The Hoya’s editorial board is composed of six students and is chaired by the Opinion Editor. Editorials reflect only the beliefs of a majority of the board and are not representative of The Hoya or any individual member of the board.

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