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Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Aramark Workers Rally for Better Conditions

DAN GANNON/THE HOYA Students marched from Sellinger Lounge to Hoya Court in solidarity with Aramark workers seeking better conditions.
Students marched from Sellinger Lounge to Hoya Court in solidarity with Aramark workers seeking better conditions.

Approximately 30 Aramark workers and 100 students marched from Sellinger Lounge to Aramark’s management office in Hoya Court on Wednesday to deliver two petitions seeking better work and wage conditions for workers at O’Donovan Hall.

The second petition demands union representation for workers at Hoya Court in light of the expiration of their three-year contract with Aramark in March.

The student petition, which received 2,021 signatures from students and other community members, supports the renegotiation of work conditions for workers at Leo’s, which includes a 40-hour paid work week, an increase in health care benefits, the protection of immigrant workers, anti-discrimination rules and greater involvement in food sustainability discussions on campus. The workers presented their demands to Aramark at a march on Jan. 23.

In addition, a petition drafted by Aramark workers, which was signed by 83 percent of the workers, demands the unionization of Aramark workers at Hoya Court under UNITE HERE, the same labor union that Aramark workers from Leo’s, Cosi and Starbucks joined in March 2011. Negotiations regarding the workers’ demands will begin at a meeting between the workers and Aramark’s management on Friday.

The rally, organized by the Georgetown Solidarity Committee, began with Leo’s workers and students congregating at Sellinger Lounge. The students and workers then marched to Hoya Court while delivering chants in unison demanding justice and respect for Aramark workers on campus.

The workers then delivered the petitions to the Aramark management office, which was met with cheers and applause from the rallying students.

GSC member Erin Riordan (COL ’15) addressed the rally attendees at Hoya Court by expressing the committee’s determination to ensure the just treatment of the workers.

“Today is the first time that retail workers at Aramark are standing up and demanding respect and just treatment in the workplace,” Riordan said. “And this Friday … we hope that Aramark will stand up and honor the respect and dignity these workers deserve and honor our Jesuit values, and give these workers what they need. If Aramark doesn’t honor the respect of these workers … we’ll be back.”

Under the current contract, workers at Hoya Court claimed to have experienced inconsistent wage payments, racial discrimination and verbal abuse.

Erenia Pacheco, who has been a sandwich artist at Subway at Hoya Court for two years, said she hopes the petition will end the unfair treatment that workers experience from their managers.

“We just [don’t] want to get … disrespected. We want respect, we want to stop discrimination, being racist, having favoritism,” Pacheco said. “Hours-wise, people need more hours.”

According to Pacheco, there are frequent disputes between workers and managers at Hoya Court over operational duties and wages.

“[In] less than a one-month period, [the management] fired five people because [the workers] talked back to them. There was an incident when a manager was about to slap a worker’s hand. They just be calling out names like ‘stupid.’ Who wants to come to work knowing that you’re going to come to a place where nobody respects you?” Pacheco said.

Pacheco recounted an incident in which she was not given sick leave despite providing proper documentation.

“There was an incident when I was sick, and I brought in my note, and [my manager] just threw it in my face like ‘Here, I don’t care about your note. How do I know you didn’t make that letter up yourself?’ And I came back to work the day before the doctor said to come back to work. He didn’t accept my letter, but two weeks after, he was like ‘Do you still have your letter?’ So he’s gonna ask for it back after two weeks when he threw it in my face saying he didn’t care about it,” Pacheco said. “It’s not fair. We’re all sick of that. They [are] playing with our hours, disrespecting and all that. We’re just fed up.”

Francisco Lopez, a worker at Elevation Burger at Hoya Court, said that the daily tasks given to him by his manager are too demanding for an understaffed establishment.

“Sometimes you close with just one more person, it’s just two people closing tonight. … That’s a lot of work because you have to wash the dishes, wash the grill and the grill takes about 20 minutes and on top of that they want it all done in an hour because if you go over they yell at you because you went over,” Lopez said. “I’m just one person, I’m not a machine, but they don’t want to hear all that.”

However, under the current contract with Aramark, Lopez said that there are no opportunities for workers to voice their complaints.

“All they tell us to do is call that hotline that’s in the back, the Aramark corporate, they tell us just call the hotline,” Lopez said. “[Our manager’s] telling us go call corporate because he knows it’s going to take them a week to get back to us. That’s not how you deal with stuff. We just have to deal with it and move on, [not] brush it under the rug.”

According to GSC member Clare Kelly (COL ’17), the petition would be effective in demonstrating to the Aramark management that there is community support for the workers.

“[Companies] are usually scared of students especially on university campuses. So that means we hold a lot of power. Since we hold a lot of power, we should be using it,” Kelly said. “[We need to] show that students really do support the workers here on campus. … If [workers] feel that support, they are able to be stronger and speak up for themselves. … We’re going to keep pushing and maintain that support to show that we care and to make it matter.”

GSC member Lily Ryan (COL ’18) said that many community members expressed interest in signing the petition.

“One of the ways [of garnering support] was just going around campus to Red Square, Leo’s, talking to people, engaging people in discussions about workers’ rights on campus,” Ryan said. “I think other ways was how we reached out to an incredibly diverse group of clubs and try to engage clubs, classes, just really engage people about what was going on and ask people if they were interested in supporting workers.”

Pacheco said she is grateful for the support for Aramark workers from students and the community.

“I feel so grateful [about the student support]. When I first heard about it, I thought about how crazy it is that students care more about our work than our own managers,” Pacheco said. “It feels good knowing that we have support from the outside that sees how hard we work.”

Aramark’s Director of Corporate Communications Karen Cutler said that Aramark will bargain in “good faith” with the workers in the upcoming weeks.

“Negotiating union collective bargaining agreements are a routine part of business,” Cutler wrote in an email in January. “At Georgetown, we are committed to bargaining in good faith and are working hard with union representatives to come to an agreement that works for everyone. We had a productive meeting this week and hope to have a new agreement soon.”

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