Letter to the Editor: Say no to Sodexo

What kind of company do you want cooking your meals next year? How about a company engaged in so much illegal treatment of its employees that it was forced to shut down a dining hall for a day? Right now, Northeastern is deciding whether to extend its contract with our current food service provider, Chartwells, or to award the lucrative contract to a different company. There are many issues to consider, but one company is clearly the wrong choice for our university: That company is called Sodexo.

Sodexo is not a smart choice for Northeastern. The company’s poor treatment of employees is so extreme that in April, hundreds of workers walked off the job in protest at the University of Pittsburgh and George Mason University, where the dining halls were forced to completely close down to students.

We want workers on campus to be treated fairly and we don’t want to invite a company with labor disputes so extreme that they would prevent students from being fed.

This multinational corporation made over $1 billion in operating profits last year, but pays cafeteria workers wages as low as $8.27 per hour, according to the Service Employees International Union. On top of this, Sodexo has also been the target of a large class action law suit surrounding wage theft, unsafe working conditions and discrimination.

Next up on the list of Sodexo no-nos that hit closer to home: Sodexo workers at Clark University in Worcester and Merrimack College in Andover have been facing illegal anti-union intimidation from management and Sodexo higher-ups over the past year in their union organizing drive. The National Labor Relations Board has investigated several unfair labor practices against Sodexo at Clark University, while employees at Merrimack College have rallied against poverty wages that leave them struggling to afford basic necessities for their families. The workers are joined by a coalition of students, university faculty and community members in calling on Sodexo to recognize their attempts to democratically form a union.

Union organizing and collective bargaining are legally protected rights under the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, and are enumerated as part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (article 23), which was adopted by the United Nations in 1948. Sodexo has failed to meet these standards, flouting the law time and time again.

As a hugely profitable company, one of the few whose revenues have actually been growing during the recession, Sodexo has the ability and the responsibility to improve its hourly wages and working conditions so that its employees can earn a fair and decent living. We should hold Northeastern to the highest accountability by choosing a food service provider that takes responsibility for its employees’ wellbeing and provides for their needs. We should demand fair labor standards at Northeastern and justice for the people who are as much a part of our campus community as the students and professors.

For more information on these issues go to cleanupsodexo.org or contact the Progressive Student Alliance (PSA) at [email protected]

– Claire Lewis is a sophomore international affairs major and Kate Pipa is a middler business major. Both are members of the PSA.