Friday, October 8, 2010

Support Striking Sodexo Employees

This past Wednesday I walked my first picket line. I marched with Morehouse College cafeteria workers, Morehouse students, and Sevice Employees International Union members protesting the unfair treatment of cafeteria employees by Sodexo Corporation.

Sodexo, a company which can be contracted by schools and companies to provide food service, is the world’s 22nd-largest employer. In 2008, the company revenues totaled $20 billion. And the recession isn’t slowing Sodexo down: In the first half of fiscal year 2009, its operating profits grew by 7.1%. And yet, Sodexo workers in four states are striking because they are being paid poverty wages and cannot afford the company-offered health care plan. 
Though many Sodexo workers are paid at a rate above the minimum wage, the yearly earnings of a worker making $8.50 an hour still fall well beneath the poverty line ($22,050 for a family of four). Earnings are even lower than they first appear: because Sodexo contracts work with schools and colleges, many workers end up unemployed during the summer. In order for a seasonal Sodexo worker to keep her family out of poverty year-round, she would have to make $14.50 an hour. Sodexo’s starting pay of $7.35 an hour falls far short. 
All of this would be enough to call for reform, but employees allege being forced to work off the clock and being denied proper overtime pay. Sodexo paid $80 million to settle a race-bias lawsuit filed by 3,000 employees, $60,000 for disciplining an employee who reported sexual assault, and $50,000 to an employee who claimed she was fired because she was pregnant. The U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration has cited the company for 160 violations in the last ten years, including two that resulted in fatalities. At the same time, Sodexo claims that advancing equal opportunity and supporting and valuing employees are fundamental values of the company. 
A business that advances equal opportunity would discipline those who commit race and pregnancy discrimination and assault, rather than those who report such actions. A business that supports employees would pay them a wage that would keep their families out of poverty. A business that values its employees would respond to safety hazards responsibly and quickly. Instead, Sodexo keeps its workers in poverty and fear. 
By Beth Miller, 9to5 Lutheran Volunteer


Helen Bushnell said...

Has Morehouse College said why they outsource their cafeteria to a private company, and why in particular they outsource to Sodexo?

Atlanta Members Speak Up! said...

Hi Helen,

I've been looking for answers to your questions about Morehouse's position. According to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article, "Morehouse cafeteria workers on strike" (Oct 6 2010), the college declined to comment and referred media to Sodexo. The campus dining website also does not offer insight into why Morehouse contracts out Sodexo.

If any more information comes out on Morehouse's position, I'll be sure to post a link.