Workers Speak Out Against Leo’s Changes
Published: Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 18, 2012 02:09
Members of the Georgetown Solidarity Committee, which helped workers form their union last year, say that these changes take a toll on both employees and students.
“There are two components to [the changes], one being that students are affected by this. We have fewer options, fewer healthy options,” GSC member Erin Riordan (COL ’15) said. “There is also the worker’s side to it, where by cutting certain stations, they end up cutting certain positions and giving people fewer hours and things like that.”
According to Bryant, Leo’s workers’ contract with ARAMARK provides them with a mechanism for addressing concerns.
“The union has a formal grievance procedure for resolving all issues between ARAMARK management and workers. When a grievance procedure cannot produce a satisfactory outcome, an arbitrator is used to settle the disagreement,” she wrote in an email. “To date, all issues have been settled through the grievance procedure, with no need for an arbitrator.”
The union negotiation that occurred last year also included a collective bargaining agreement between ARAMARK and Georgetown employees to facilitate the communication of grievances.
“While ARAMARK is contractually required to comply with the just employment policies of Georgetown University, it is responsible for its own labor relations with its employees and any trade union represented among its employees,” Bryant wrote in an email. “The collective bargaining agreement between ARAMARK and its employees provides structure and framework for the operation and interaction of workers and management.”
Despite the agreement, workers still feel challenged.
“We have to fight them on everything,” the female employee said. “I guess … since we signed our contract, that they just wanted to show everybody that they still have power, with the work shifts and the shifting of the days.”
According to Riordan, there is an alignment between students’ and workers’ interests on these issues.
“One thing that stood out to us was that the complaints from workers and students were very similar, and it was generally about the amount of food that was being offered and how it was being offered,” she said.
ARAMARK, which earned over $13 billion in revenue in 2011 and is ranked as the United States’ 204th largest company on CNN’s Fortune 500 list, has a mixed record on workers’ rights issues. In April 2010, the company signed an agreement with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers that raised wages for tomato pickers by more than 70 percent, but ARAMARK has also come under fire from some of its customers in the education community.
In 2008, Yale University chose not to renew its contract with the company in the wake of concerns about budgeting and the treatment of workers. Yale Daily News reported in 2001 that ARAMARK posted a $3 million budget deficit during its first year of operation at the school while increasing costs to the university and students. Bob Pronto, the president of the local union that represented Yale dining workers, told YDN that the company also frequently shuffled employees between Yale dining halls and changed managers, similarly to the conditions Leo’s employees described.
“It seemed as though they were more worried about achieving a bottom line as it related to their profit,” Pronto told YDN in 2008. “[ARAMARK] tried at different turns to undermine the quality of food. They cut very close the quantity of food that they ordered and caused us to have certain shortages.”
Georgetown’s contract with ARAMARK runs until 2017, but GSC members say that students have a role to play in lobbying the company for better treatment of workers.
“We want to bring these issues to campus attention,” GSC member Julia Hubbell (COL ’15) said.