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Brandeis Labor Coalition and Sodexo general manager discuss employee working conditions

By Joon Park

Section: News

October 10, 2014

Twelve members of the Brandeis Labor Coalition (BLC) gathered in Upper Usdan on Tuesday, Oct. 7 to hold a meeting with Sodexo’s General Manager Shawn Monaghan.

In the beginning of the meeting, BLC member Andrew Nguyen ’15 introduced himself and discussed the concerns of the BLC.

“We wanted to have a conversation with you, in terms of the stories we hear from the workers,” said Nguyen. He continued to talk about what some of the concerns are and how they wish to best approach them. “As students, we want to know how these issues are addressed,” Nguyen said. “We are a part of the same community as workers, and their concerns are our concerns.”

Nguyen continuously pointed out that management is a main concern. “We wanted to know what management was doing in order to solve the issues that we are having,” he said.

Monaghan replied that first, he wanted to get the facts straight. He expressed confusion about why the working condition of Sodexo employees was being dealt with through this channel.

“The reason I agreed to meet with you … it is rather outside of the norm … Because the employees are protected by the bargaining unit,” said Monaghan. He later stated that employees should directly talk to their supervising managers regarding the grievances.

Monaghan moved on to ask if anyone has read the union contract, saying that there is a procedure in filing the grievance. He explained the process could take longer than expected according to the union contract.

BLC member Cecile Afable ’16 said that all the stories club members have heard were workers’ direct, firsthand experience. Club members therefore believe that they are a more accurate depiction of what is happening on campus to Sodexo workers. BLC members have gone through many sessions of listening to the workers’ grievances.

Students said they will look up the union contract, and asked if the latest grievance has been reviewed.

“We are challenged running operations,” said Monaghan. “At this point, we have 11 open positions for workers. We work for the bargain unit on a referral program.” In response to the question about the latest grievance petition, Monaghan said there was a meeting held with the employees last Wednesday, Oct. 1. He also added that he started working this summer, stating he was not responsible for an uncovered grievance from April.

Nguyen sought affirmation from Monaghan, asking if he would routinely check the grievances. He also asked for a timetable of when grievances will be reviewed. The manager stated it was impossible to review every single grievance, because some of them are regurgitations, and the company is also striving to run a business.

Monaghan discussed how Sodexo’s duties on campus have expanded this year. Sodexo anticipated a rise in the number of students eating in Lower Usdan after changing to an all-you-can-eat buffet, and the population during lunchtime did increase to 1,000 students. Sodexo struggled with a lack of workers, and some employees also had to change locations to keep business running smoothly. In busy times, cashiers also had to help out. This detail answered the question of why some workers were doing jobs that were not signed in the contract.

Nguyen asked why the updated schedules of employees working extra hours were not posted frequently. He also stated that workers felt intimidated by managers working in the field. He added that the extra working hours could benefit some workers financially. Monaghan stated that more managers were on the floor due to the lack of workers overall. He also stated that, as a general manager, he believed that managers often needed to come out of the office and help out.

Students stated that the workers had had no issue with working conditions under Aramark, Brandeis’ previous dining contractor. Monaghan stated that the students should go ask the employees if they would want Aramark back. On the issue of whether or not Sodexo favors temporary workers to union workers, Monaghan claimed every temporary worker requires time for training, and it is inefficient to spend resources in just training people.

BLC stated that they were going to keep talking with the workers and checking in about their feelings on Sodexo. Monaghan stated, “People are passionate about the situation—the employees, students and the management.” He said he would have dialogue with the employees.

“This is a collective issue, not just a management issue,” Monaghan said. “I really thought this meeting had value, and that is why I made accepted the meeting. I wanted to hear what the students directly thought … Now, BLC [can help with the] improvement of Sodexo. I encourage you to keep probing employees, and we should have a meeting in the near future.”

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