Sodexo workers crowded into the Lower Usdan dining office to protest their hours being cut on Monday, Oct. 1. The workers were joined by some students, including those from the Brandeis Labor Coalition.
Many workers complained that their hours had been cut, and one woman, speaking through a translator, alleged that she was struck during her job. Dining personnel in the office responded with concern, saying the issue hadn’t been brought to their attention before, according to a Hoot reporter at the scene.
Lucy Braverman ’22, a Hoot reporter who attended the protest, described the comments made by the Sodexo employees. “Many workers spoke about inefficient work conditions and cut hour,” she wrote, in an email to The Brandeis Hoot. “One woman’s translator said she was beaten by her boss.”
Some Sodexo employees are represented by the union Unite Here Local 26. To be eligible for the union, employees must work a certain number of hours. The Hoot reached out to several Sodexo workers, the Brandeis Labor Coalition and the university dining office for comment.
Dining office General Manager Andy Allen responded, saying the issue was very important to the office, and provided a statement. “Sodexo and UNITE HERE Local 26 have a very good working relationship,” he wrote in an email to The Hoot.
He continued, “There is a current collective bargaining agreement in place at Brandeis University. Any matters concerning scheduling or hours are best addressed through the processes outlined in the collective bargaining agreement which provides for both a Labor-Management Committee, and for a grievance/arbitration process.”
Several members of the Brandeis Labor Coalition were contacted, in person and via email, by The Hoot. The Labor Coalition would not offer any comment on the issue.
Several Usdan Dining Hall and Hoot Market employees were also approached for comment but did not respond to The Hoot’s requests by publication time.
Brandeis entered into a 10-year contract with Sodexo for food service in 2013, according to an Oct. 26, 2013 Faculty Senate report. In 2013, newly hired counter workers were paid $12.51 an hour, a wage that was criticized by faculty in their senate report.
The report also mentioned faculty fears over “Sodexo’s record of low wages, race discrimination, and anti-union activities,” including a $80 million dollar settlement in 2005 after the National Labor Relations Board’s findings of “anti-union activities.”
Concerns also arose over the allegation that Sodexo may be eliminating full time work through part time workers.
The union Unite Here 26 ratified a new contract in August of 2016 that included lower healthcare costs and provide a $1.50 wage increase with the goal of bringing almost all positions up to $20 an hour, according to the Local 26 webpage.
There have been at least nine boycotts of Sodexo in the past, one of which took place at Brandeis University over meal plan changes in 2014, according to a Brandeis Hoot article from the time.
Other colleges and universities that have seen protests include Clark University in Worcester, M.A., the American University in Washington, D.C., Binghamton University in New York, Emory University in Atlanta, G.A. and the Claremont Colleges (Scripps College and Harvey Mudd College) in Southern California.