Leo’s Workers Meeting With Aramark
Published: Friday, October 19, 2012
Updated: Friday, October 19, 2012 02:10
Employees at O’Donovan Hall are hopeful that newly instated weekly meetings with representatives of their employer, Aramark Higher Education, will improve worker-management relations, though communication with the company remains a chief concern of both employees and the Georgetown Solidarity Committee.
According to Director of Media Relations Rachel Pugh, representatives of UNITE HERE, a national labor union to which Leo’s workers belong, began meeting with the dining hall’s management this summer, but talks between workers and their employer did not begin until this fall.
“These meetings provide the opportunity to voice any and all concerns and to discuss options and appropriate next steps,” Pugh wrote in an email.
Tarshea Smith, who has worked in the dining hall for 19 years, said the meetings have been productive thus far.
“[The meetings] are effective in a lot of ways because we can solve things right then and there instead of filing a grievance. And a lot of times we can talk to them because they know we have the student support,” she said.
According to Smith, some conflicts that would have formerly resulted in a worker’s losing his or her job have been solved through this weekly forum. The meetings are held with Director of Food and Beverage Ted Lipansky.
“My co-worker was written up … and the sous chef said he was being insubordinate. He wouldn’t wear a hairnet,” Smith said. “His co-workers took pictures of [him wearing] the hairnet. … We went into the office to talk about it, and they tore up the write-up.”
Smith said she believes that in addition to accomplishing practical goals, these meetings provide an opportunity for workers to band together.
“It shows how unified we are, how we’re going to push back together when you push against us,” she said.
At a recent weekly meeting, employees fought on behalf of their co-worker who was denied a job after she returned from maternity leave. Without a human resources department, workers have to trust their managers to complete and turn in paperwork for situations like maternity leave on time, sometimes resulting in miscommunications and delays.
In recent weeks, Leo’s has been running out of food at popular stations, which some employees attributed to a disconnect between workers and the managers who order supplies.
Georgetown Solidarity Committee members Erin Riordan (COL ’15) and Julia Hubbell (COL ’15) also cited miscommunication as the biggest problem between Leo’s workers, Aramark, students and the university.
“The missing piece right now is a systematic way to bring students and workers together to bring their concerns to the table,” Hubbell said.
“We need a system set up in which everyone who has a stake in these issues can be at the same table and it’s not separate people talking about different things,” she said.