Workers Speak Out Against Leo’s Changes
Published: Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 18, 2012 02:09
In the wake of a two-year-long unionization effort and a series of broad dining changes this summer, workers at O’Donovan Hall are dissatisfied with their relationship to their employer, ARAMARK Higher Education.
Employees say that ARAMARK has changed shifts and reassigned duties within the dining hall in order to minimize the number of workers to whom it must pay full-time salaries and benefits. At the same time, the number of students served at Leo’s has increased this year.
Georgetown first contracted ARAMARK in 2007, and the contract was renewed in 2012 for another five-year period, according to Margie Bryant, associate vice president for auxiliary services. In addition to Leo’s, ARAMARK provides food services for Grab ’n’ Go, Wolfington Hall, Cosi, Starbucks and the Pre-Clinical Science Building’s Dr. Mug.
Last September, workers at these locations joined a local chapter of UNITE HERE, a national labor union that includes workers in the hotel, airport, food service, laundry and gaming industries. Once unionized, Georgetown dining employees worked to secure an improved contract with ARAMARK, winning them higher wages and expanded health care coverage. The contract was signed in February.
“Our employees at Georgetown are represented by a local union who negotiated a collective bargaining agreement on their behalf,” ARAMARK Director of Communications Karen Cutler said. “We have a good working relationship with the union and adhere to the terms and conditions of that collective bargaining agreement.”
But five months after the contract was signed, Leo’s workers say they are unhappy with the treatment they have received from ARAMARK.
“A lot of us have been here for a long time, and they don’t ask us our opinions on anything. They just change it,” said a female employee who has worked at the dining hall for 19 years, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “We know what the students like. … We talk to the students. Why not talk to us? … They didn’t do that. They just changed it, wiped it out.”
Shift changes enacted over the summer as part of the restructuring of services in the dining hall have also been unpopular among employees, forcing some of them to rearrange their family and work schedules.
“A lot of people have second jobs, and they already had their days set. Now, people have to adjust their lives and tell the second job that they can’t work this day or have to come in later,” the female employee said. “And we thought that was messed up, because it wasn’t broken, so why did [ARAMARK] try to fix it?”
A male employee who has worked at Leo’s for 15 years, also speaking anonymously, said that many of the changes instituted this semester — including the elimination of the wrap and make-your-own-pizza stations as well as the removal of options at the pasta and stir-fry stations — were designed to minimize the number of workers needed to run the cafeteria at any given time.
“[ARAMARK] said they got a 74 percent increase of students on meal plans, and that’s why they needed more people on weekends and evening shifts. But the thing is, there are less people on weekends and on the evening shifts,” he said.
Cutler said that Leo’s is not understaffed.
“All locations are fully staffed to ensure quality service,” she wrote in an email.
The male employee, however, said he gets off his shift late because Leo’s is shorthanded.
“This year was the only year that I know, in recent memory, where we didn’t see new employees come in,” he said. “They still have the same amount of people they had last year. They just have more work to do.”
According to Bryant, the changes in food selection and service were a result of student surveys conducted in the spring of 2012, and the “We Hear You” campaign was created to communicate the alterations.
But the employee said that students are unhappy because they did not ask for the first set of changes.
“The thing is [that] they can’t really tell you why they took it. The stuff that they added, they said, was for the students. … [But] the students, the ones we talked to, said they never asked for this,” he said. “That’s why you don’t see a lot of students happy with the changes.”
When the dining committee — a group composed of students, university administrators and ARAMARK representatives — received further feedback, a second campaign, “We Hear You 2.0,” reinstituted some options, including the taco bar, a renewed variety of vegetables at the pasta station and a weekends-only make-your-own-pizza station.
However, according to the male employee, the changes at Leo’s have had a negative overall impact on the dining experience.
“Now, three weeks into the school year, it is worse,” he said.
The female employee said that changes to Grab ’n’ Go have placed a greater burden on workers at those facilities.
“They have less food, so it’s less work for the stocking person. He doesn’t have a whole lot to do like he had before, so that means they can pull him to do something else,” she said. “Then it’s like one person on two or three jobs. They are being tricky about it.”
The male employee said that ARAMARK is taking advantage of its workers.
“People just don’t see any way out. In this day, the economy is real bad, so it’s not like we can say we are going to leave and go to something better. … The company knows this, so they’ve backed people into a corner,” he said.