P.R.I.D.E. and Sodexo workers gather again in unionization effort

by Rebecca Fiore / Beacon Staff • September 10, 2014

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About 20 students and Sodexo workers joined together again on Friday, Sept. 5 in a quick and quiet delegation to remind Steven Canario, general manager of dining services at Emerson, that the employees are still waiting for a decision to go about a fair process for a union. 

These employees had originally expressed interest in unionization in April but said they had not yet received an answer from Canario. 

Many of the Sodexo workers on campus support this action, and they hope to earn respect and dignity in the workplace, said Maria DiPasquale, a member of Progressives and Radicals in Defense of Employees, or P.R.I.D.E., and a junior writing, literature, and publishing major. 

“We want a fair process to form the union,” Sodexo employee Donna Papastavrou, otherwise known as “Little Donna,” told Canario during the event. 

There are two ways to form a union in the US. The first, a card check — the fair process that Sodexo employees and P.R.I.D.E. members have been demanding — only requires a majority of employees to sign union authorization forms, or cards. The second, an election, often leads to long waiting periods and has been known to intimidate workers.

Papastavrou told the Beacon that the workers have been fighting for around nine months. 

Canario told the workers and P.R.I.D.E. members that coming to his office without an appointment was an unnecessary way to communicate their needs.

“I’m not going to stand in the way,” he said. 

According to a former Beacon report, the Sodexo workers wish to join Unite Here Local 26, a Boston union that represents workers in the hotel, restaurant, and food service industries. 

Nicki Morris, a senior theatre studies and marketing communications double major, led the students of P.R.I.D.E. 

“We are all here to say that over the summer you might have thought nothing was happening,” she said to Canario, as she explained that the Coalition of Lions in Action with Workers, or CLAW, also kept active during break.

CLAW is an alliance of Emerson students and 17 student organizations who are advocating for worker’s rights. 

“These workers are not just workers, but part of my family,” she said tearfully. 

Morris asked for “justice on campus.”

Canario listened to the speakers and then walked away. CLAW began chanting, “¡Si se puede!”, which means “Yes we can!” in Spanish. 

“Sodexo respects the rights of our employees to unionize or not to unionize, as they choose,” Canario wrote in an emailed statement to the Beacon. “We have built positive, constructive, and successful working relationships with the more than 30 labor unions that represent over 15 percent of our employees through more than 330 collective bargaining agreements.”