Sodexo food workers receive union benefits

by Jack Skinner / Beacon Correspondent • September 18, 2015

Since Sodexo food service workers finished negotiating terms for their first union contract on April 29, the employees have been granted wage raises and better benefits.

According to Beacon archives, key issues being deliberated in the contract negotiations last spring included fair and just employee representation, wage increases, health care benefits, and respect and dignity from Sodexo management in the workplace.

The official copy of the 27-page agreement––provided by Sodexo employees who wish to remain anonymous––addressed the aforementioned items under the terms of the four-year contract between Sodexo officials and union representatives at UNITE HERE Local 26 in Boston, an organization that represents hospitality workers in Massachusetts.

Bargaining committee member and Sodexo baker Donna Papastavrou, known as “Lil Donna” by Emerson students, said she feels confident in the work that she and others on the committee have done while representing the pro-union majority of the dining hall staff. She said she remains hopeful that those in management will continue to work cooperatively and productively with the committee and union representatives at UNITE HERE Local 26 over the next four years.

“I think that the workers are excited about it,” Papastavrou said. “They’re happy. They feel that now they’ve gotten some respect.”

On Sept. 1, employees received raises either of $0.75 or the difference between their pay and the listed minimum. Employees already above the minimum did not have their pay decreased, according to the document. Dining hall staff will also receive $0.30-0.40 raises twice a year until 2019.

Union members will also have to pay $15.25 in weekly dues to the union, according to Papastavrou.

The preamble of the agreement asserts that the contract will provide both staff members and Sodexo management officials with the means to equitably establish a successful working relationship protected under the National Labor Relations Act, which protects both employees and employers in labor negotiations.

Among other services effective Sept. 1, the contract provides the applicable personnel with a non-discrimination policy in the workplace, employee seniority, immigration rights, just cause for discipline and discharge, and paid sick leave.

The presence of the union is widely favored amongst Emerson food service workers, but Brian DiGaetano, a supervisor in the kitchen, said he doesn’t like the way the union takes away from individuality. He said that he doesn’t want to pay dues, and that the scheduled raises don’t allow for people to be held accountable for their work.

“They treat us as a whole,” DiGaetano said. “It doesn’t matter how hard we work because we’re protected by the union.”

DiGaetano would rather workers be recognized personally for their efforts and contribution to Sodexo’s motto of “improving the quality of life.”

Sodexo management declined to comment for this article.

 

Update Sept. 24: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Sodexo employee wages were raised either $0.75 per hour or to the listed minimum pay rate, whichever was greater.