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corporate dominance | labor

Students and Workers of PSU's cafeteria boycot employer Sodexo Co.

Workers and students at PSU boycot multinationle Sodexho for unfair labor practices and investments in the private prison industry.
To all concerned:

We, the undersigned, have terminated our period of employment at
Sodexho's Victor's Café in Ondine Hall on the PSU campus. Given the
financial and emotional stresses of unemployment, this was not an easy
decision to make; however, the unacceptable business practices of the
company made it, in our opinion, the only ethical one.
Things have changed a lot since we first began work at Ondine
Cafeteria.
Most of us were hired part time or full time, for between 20 and 35
hours
per week. The work environment, if not exactly ideal, was generally
friendly. There existed a certain comeraderie among staff, and
relatively comfortable communication with supervisors.
Upon our return from the winter recess - a period of three weeks
during
which we were temporarily laid off - most of us faced the first of two
cuts in our hours. Ryan Hartnett worked approximately 35 hrs/ week
before
the recess; afterwards, he worked only 27. Erin George's 24 hrs/ week
were cut to around 19.
About a month after the first cut in hours, all employees were
summoned
to a mandatory staff meeting, where they were informed that their hours
had once again been cut, this time far more drastically. Ryan's hours
were reduced to 20 hrs/ week, and Erin's to 10 hrs/ week. Notice that
while she was hired as a part-time employee, the schedule change
reduced
her hours below the minimum 17 per week required to qualify as a
part-time employee (and to qualify for unemployment benefits). Needless
to say, 10.5 hrs per week at the rate of $9.55/ hr is not a living
wage.
Josh Jensen, who before the mandatory meeting had worked 30 hrs/ week,
was told that his position had been eliminated, and he would be working
only 15 hrs/ week on other stations. We were not provided with
adequate
notice necessary to locate new positions.
We were told at the mandatory meeting that hour cuts had become
necessary
as a result of the cafeteria's poor financial performance, and
reassured
that no further hires would be made until all available Sodexho shifts
had been filled by current employees. However, this promise came a bit
late. The poor performance of the cafeteria had been obvious to any
observer for some time, as the number of students frequenting Victor's
dwindled markedly. If this was in fact the reason for schedule
reductions, why were 6-7 new employees hired at the end of the winter
recess? In order to provide these new employees with adequate hours,
veterans' hours were cut, and staff were pitted against one another
scrambling for the hours remaining at their stations following the
second
schedule reduction.
These reductions in hours were accompanied by dramatic changes in
employees' job descriptions. International and pizza cooks, prior to
the
recess, were not supposed to be responsible for food prep. After the
recess, they were made responsible for preparing all food to be served
from their stations for the shift following their own, without
receiving
additional hours (or wages) for this extra work. The second hour cut
was
accompanied by an elimination of all prep duties for line staff (these
responsibilities were transferred back to cooks). Certain line
positions
were eliminated altogether, and remaining staff were to cover multiple
stations at once.
In addition to these concrete schedule changes, a less concrete but
ultimately more devastating shift occurred in supervisorial style.
Following five months during which very little disciplinary action was
taken (and then only in extreme cases), the management dealt out
multiple
write-ups in the course of a shift. The rash of write-ups following
the
break felt like harrassment, given the management's repeated failure to
address far more serious lapses in job performance (such as employees
arriving obviously drunk or stoned to work - including supervisors,
employees failing to clean their stations altogether, simply leaving
early on the closing shift, showing up very late, etc.).
Supervisors increasingly took a negative tone with employees, Jenice
in
particular obviously looking to find trivial fault with their work.
Jenice attempted to intimidate employees by threatening to cut their
hours, and Mike was overheard describing some employees as
"disposible."
The final straw for us came, when, after our hours on a given shift had
been reduced from six or more to only three and a half, we were first
informed that we could eat only after clocking out and putting all the
food away (meaning that we would have to eat out of the compost bin),
then that we could eat only food that was going to be thrown away, and
finally, that we were no longer eligible for a meal at the cafeteria,
which was one of the worker benefits outlined in our union contract
with
Sodexho.
It is our belief that the following practices are not exceptional, but
representative of a pattern that French multinational Sodexho has come
to
be recognized by throughout the world. Just try searching "Sodexho
boycott" on Google - the list of hits is impressive. Sodexho's record
of
unfair labor practices and investment in the private prison industry
have
led to boycotts at campuses across the nation, including Oberlin
College,
American University, Earlham College, Hampshire College, SUNY
Binghamton,
SUNY Albany, Skidmore College, UMD College Park, James Madison
University, and St. Louis University (see
 http://www.prisonactivist.org/pipermail/prisonact-list/2000-April/002766.html). An article in The Daily Vanguard April
15,
2005 discusses PSU student government's plans to boycott if a contract
was
signed with Sodexho because of the corporation's "history of bad
relations
with unions, racial discrimination and considerable stock in the prison
industry overseas" (see  http://www.dailyvanguard.com/vnews/display.v/ART/2005/04/15/425f8c902e008). We can only urge PSU's student
government
and concerned students to follow through with a boycott now that
Sodexho
has confirmed its reputation at PSU. Sodexho's contract at PSU is an
embarrassment to the university.

Josh Jensen
Erin George
Ryan Hartnett

This is a bad company but 23.Feb.2006 07:23

anon

did you know that when you hired on? Did you willing agree to work for a bad company/ Or do you only use that excuse now as a political point to build your argument? If you knew they were a bad company, why did you work for them in the first place? Why did you expect good treatment from them? If a 'bad company' treated you well, would you still work for them?

nevertheless 23.Feb.2006 12:48

j

lessons teach. that company is HUGE and everywhere... i once worked for them at loyola maymount--

boycott=good

Food for Thought 23.Feb.2006 14:33

Jasun Wurster

I go to PSU and the Food For Thought Café is in the basement of the Smith Building. I am not a fan of the change over that PSU did with food services ... come to think of it I am not happy with a lot of things that PSU does ... the One Card and $30 increase in student fees comes to mind.

Anyhow, I know that Food For Thought hires students ... since it is a student run organization. Plus the Vegan and Vegie menu is much appreciated as compared to the corporate crap being served by Sodexho.

My advice is to spend a few hours a week educating students that traverse between Smith and Newberger "Why you are boycotting Sodexho" in a way to informs students that there is an alternative. You get 1000 sheets of printer paper a term to print out fliers ... plus there are many other places on campus that you can find a terminal to print fliers from.

As progressive as the student population of PSU, I think that they would be very receptive to hear your plight and support your efforts ... but only if you take the time and effort to continually inform those that are oblivious.

your anger is misplaced 23.Feb.2006 18:23

blame the current president

the current administration at PSU is to blame for this. the same way Wal Mart is a governmental problem this comes down to an administrative issue. something or someone has allowed for the corporate giants to take over PSU and most other universities. I mean, Resser"nasty potatoe salad" stadium??

the corporate take over of higher education is almost complete. from the cafeterias, to the books, to the food and drinks, to a large portion of staff members and ofcourse housing. even financial aid was outsourced by PSU.

the questions that one must ask of the president?

--who gave him the right to sell your personal financial information to an out of state bank with only two ATM machines on the west coast?
--why were control parameters not set when handing out food contracts? limits should be put on how much the company gets to abuse the student workers no matter how naive they are.

--a key function of student administration is to protect students from the abusive behavior
of partner businesses. have PSU's current administration forgoten who they work for?

--has any member of the president's office or his agents/lawyers taken $$ in exchange for rewarding the bribing party with a PSU contract?
Is this the behavior of an effective or responsible president?

how's the lawsuit going over the One Card debacle?

some advice 24.Feb.2006 20:06

Randy Thrall

First of all let me say that I am glad that you guys decided not to put up with the crap that Sudexo was dishing out to you. Personally I would love to see sudexo kicked off campus and replaced with a diverse food court that representes local companies and diverse food choices. This could be possible if enough people decide to participate in the boycott. My suggestion to you guys is to first file a complaint with BOLI (Buruea of Labor and Industry) about unfair labor practices and possible violation of worker contracts. Also I would like to see you, the undersigned, approach the Vanguard to get your message out to students at PSU. Getting your personal stories published could get the ball rolling. I think you would have lots of support at PSU and possibly with some student groups and organizations. I am a happy participant in the Food for thought cafe and I think that we would support you, though I cannot speak for the whole group. The whole reason the cafe was started was in response to the Sudexo takeover. These are just some ideas, but I believe that there is change in the air, students are unhappy, and some good things could come of this.

nothing has changed 21.May.2006 15:05

anonymous for fear of reprisal seanraving@yahoo.com

Nothing has changed, in fact it just gets worse, it seems. The pattern is very similar to what happened at NKU in Kentucky. Supposedly, the Union is going to do something, but we're still waiting to hear. Whatever.