Sodexo’s poor employee treatment undermines Tulane’s ethical standards

Amy Schully, Contributing Writer

The following is an opinion article, and opinion articles do not reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo

Tulane’s food service provider, Sodexo, a multibillion-dollar corporation, has a long history of denying its employees essential worker benefits. Many colleges and universities across the country have pressured their administrations to end their contracts with the company through campus organizing involving both students and Sodexo employees. Tulane’s administration should follow these schools and terminate its contracts with Sodexo.

The University of Washington terminated its contract with Sodexo in 2011, after workers and students staged three sit-ins resulting in 50 arrests. Since then, DePauw University, Clark University, American University, University of Pittsburgh, Oberlin College and Binghamton University have boycotted Sodexo on their campuses. While students and Sodexo workers at Tulane staged strikes and a walkout in 2010 and 2011, organizing has since ceased. 

At various locations worldwide, Sodexo has threatened to replace workers who attempt to unionize and forced employees to sit through anti-union meetings without being given the opportunity to also hear from union leaders. Other intimidation tactics have included requiring supervisors to have one-on-one conversations with employees regarding anti-union sentiments, questioning workers about union activity and telling workers their efforts to unionize are ineffective.

Student activists from UNITE HERE!, a union that represents workers in hotel, food service, laundry, warehouse, airport, textile and casino gaming industries, visited Tulane and Loyola in fall 2014 to gather student support around Sodexo’s most recent health care loophole. Under the Affordable Care Act, full-time workers, those averaging 30 hours per week, are guaranteed affordable health insurance from large-scale employers. Last year, Sodexo reclassified the 10,000 employees that work in school cafeterias seasonally as “part-time” workers, thereby denying them comprehensive health care coverage.

As a result of students’ and workers’ efforts, Sodexo made the decision to reinstate health care benefits to most seasonal workers in June. The company, however, did not begin giving these benefits to workers until January 2015. 

As university students, we have a responsibility to call on the administration to ensure that workers at Tulane are treated with dignity and respect. It is our duty to protest when our campus workers are denied their rights to affordable health care and adequate wages. It is time for Tulane to disaffiliate itself from a company that continues to deny its employees freedom of association, equal pay for equal work, accessible health care and protection from discrimination and unjust working conditions.

Amy Schully is a senior at Newcomb-Tulane College. She can be reached at [email protected]