Several employees in O’Donovan Hall allege that they have not been paid what they were promised for completing special projects.
Jeff Day, who has worked in Leo’s for almost five years,said that he has not been properly compensated for painting part of the dining hall over the summer. Day initially requested $16 per hour for the painting project, but his employers paid him just 50 cents extra over his hourly wage of $11.85, promising him retroactive pay that he has not yet received.
“It was just me and one other employee, and we painted the upper and lower walls of the dining hall,” Day said. “We worked all through the summer until the students arrived, and we were promised higher pay for doing an engineering job. My pay went up temporarily, but then it went back to normal wage, and I still haven’t received the retro pay I was promised during the summer.”
Troy Washington, a Leo’s supervisor and a representative of UNITE HERE, the union under which Leo’s workers are organized, confirmed that employees who work on these special projects are meant to receive higher wages under the terms of their contracts.
“The job you’re doing [when painting] is building-engineering,” Washington said. “Under building-engineering you’re supposed to get the same wages that building engineers get.”
Day said the other employee, who has since left his position at Georgetown, did not receive his retroactive pay either.
Charles Hendricks, a lead organizer of UNITE HERE Local 23, explained, “There’s a system in the contract [in which] employees can file grievances, which ultimately go to a neutral third party called arbitration if the employer and the union can’t reach an agreement.”
Hendricks said that assigning a task to an employee outside of his job description would violate the contract that union representatives at Leo’s negotiated with Aramark, the company that manages Georgetown’s dining services.
“I’ve never heard of an issue of the employer making people do engineering work, but that would certainly be a violation of the contract,” Hendricks said. “That’s a good thing for the employee to go to the employer about, go to the shop steward about and file a grievance about.”
Karen Cutler, director of communications for Aramark, stated in an email that she had not heard about these problems.
“We are unaware of any of these issues, but, as always, are committed to discussing any matters with our employees and their elected representatives,” she wrote. “Our employees at Georgetown are represented by a union and covered by a collective bargaining agreement. We strive to follow all terms and conditions of that agreement, which includes a clear provision for how to address and resolve employee issues and concerns.”
Yet Day said that he and other employees are reluctant to use the grievance system because they feel it could threaten their jobs.
“We’ve heard of the grievance process, but from what I’ve heard, we’ve only used it against each other. I’ve never heard of one of my coworkers filing a grievance against an employer. Basically, they’re afraid of termination,” Day said. “They might be terminated because there is some good management here and there is overbearing management, and many times we feel that if we make a complaint, we risk losing our jobs.”
Hendricks, however, said any retaliation on the part of Aramark against an employee grievance would violate the workers’ contract and is illegal.
“Employees have a right under the law and under their [contracts] to file complaints … through the union contract to enforce their rights,” he said.
Washington said that Aramark has weekly meetings with workers, but these meetings do not necessarily assuage the doubts of workers who are intimidated by the grievance system.
“We came up with this system for better communication,” she said. “We meet with them every week [to straighten] things out and [talk] about things that aren’t right.”
“Some workers go and talk to Georgetown students,” Hendricks said, “thinking that students are going to fix the problems for them rather than [going to] their coworkers and … [bringing] the issues up to management. I keep getting phone calls from students on a regular basis about issues that never get brought up to the shop stewards.
“We don’t have any way to know if [workers are] being paid correctly unless they tell us they’re not being paid correctly,” Hendricks added.
Day said that while he was painting the dining hall, Aramark managers employed a contractor outside of Leo’s to supplement the job.
“I brought many of my own tools from home to complete the job,” he said. “Then they employed an outside painter [who] was paid much higher than I was and they gave him my tools, so I was left to do my part of the job without my tools for lower pay.”
Day said he was assigned these tasks through a system in which management asks interested employees to submit their names to a special projects list. From this list, management selects Leo’s employees based on seniority. Employees typically work these jobs for standard overtime pay, even when the task is not included in their job descriptions.
Additionally, Day said that he has trained several employees without receiving a pay increase. Generally, employees referred to as “leads” are responsible for training new employees and are compensated appropriately for this work, according to Leo’s employee and UNITE HERE representative Tarshea Smith. Day said that although he is not a lead, he does the same work as most leads and was still asked to train other workers without lead pay.
“I have been put in charge [of] training many employees. I spend extra time teaching these employees how to perform certain jobs, but I have not been paid extra for training them,” he said. “Many of these employees are promoted higher than I am even though they have less experience.”
Day said he has not been compensated appropriately because he only made a verbal agreement to offer training.
“They wanted to save some money, but they didn’t pay me what they promised because they were paying me outside of contract,” he said. “They said it was a verbal agreement, but if you verbally agree to do something, then honor what you said you’re going to do.”
In response to the employee’s claim that he was not paid for training other employees, Hendricks stated that he did not know the specifics of the Leo’s workers’ contracts.
“Many union contracts call for a training wage if you are training an employee; many union contracts call for [a higher rate of pay] if you work out of your classification doing a higher-paid job,” he said.
Day said he is still confused as to why he hasn’t been granted promised retroactive pay.
“Everyone else who has worked the entire summer has already gotten paid. I should have been paid right after summer break ended. It doesn’t make sense,” he said.