Petition Signed by Over 70 Sodexo Employees Hand-Delivered to Management

Sodexo workers, students and members of workers' rights groups marched across campus Wednesday to present Sodexo management with a petition for better treatment. (Gabriella Galeano)

UPDATED 2:00 a.m. 

Demanding better wages, treatment and health care options, on-campus Sodexo workers, joined by students and local Service Employees International Union representatives led a march through campus Wednesday afternoon to present a petition to Denise Ammaccapane, the resident district manager for Sodexo.

Representatives from the CFDT, a workers rights federation in Paris, and UNISON, a public service trade union located in Great Britain, flew in to join in handing over the gathered worker testimonies and the petition, which was signed by more than 70 on-campus Sodexo employees.

“I think finally these people are going to start listening to us and see that we’re serious about [our rights],” said Andres Ujueta, who works in Southside.

According to the workers, on-campus Sodexo employees have been harassed by their superiors, discouraged from joining a union, their hours have been cut and they are presented with expensive health insurance options, which workers say eat up a significant amount of their weekly paycheck. About four weeks ago the workers, with the help of Fabricio Herrera, a lead organizer at the Arlington branch of the SEIU, began gathering testimonies and signing the petition, joining a nationwide movement by Sodexo workers to petition against the food service company.

Around 2 p.m. the group of about 30 gathered at the main campus entrance on Braddock Road and proceeded to march through the North Plaza, leading spirited chants demanding workers rights, finally ending at the Sodexo offices located underneath Southside.

The workers confronted Ammaccapane, who they say never returned e-mails about setting up a meeting.

“It’s unfortunate that sometimes these things happen,” said Ammaccapane, who was unaware that the march was happening and said she was out of town last week and unable to return the group’s e-mails about setting up a meeting.

Ammaccapane listened to some of the workers complaints and took the petition, but ultimately told workers that at this point, communication would need to go through Sodexo’s corporate offices.

“We never get any answers back from them, so right now we made the decision to do it this way,” said Ujueta. “All the time they say if you guys have any concerns come to me and I’ll fix the problem, but right now they just came with the excuse that they have to go confirm with someone on the higher level.”

Charles Olson, the assistant controller for Sodexo on campus, said that the fact that the group was petitioning was both shocking and saddening, saying no prior concerns had been raised by workers.

“It’s a lie. It’ s just a blatant lie,” said Olson, who works closely with the other Sodexo workers. “I have never seen anything [happen] like what this union is coming out and saying [happened]. They do have open doors all the time. They’re good people they’re not the type of people that would ever harass intimidate or oppress anybody.”

Olson, who also handles payroll for on-campus Sodexo workers, says there’s nothing unfair about the health insurance options or the hourly wages.

“As far as wages go, people get paid great wages here especially compared to any other food service job in the area,” said Olson. “I’m an hourly worker, I’m not management so I have the same health coverage as all the other hourly workers here [and] it’s excellent . . . My problem with SEIU are their tactics . . . They’re trying to instigate conflict, they’re trying to divide us and then they’re coming up with these advertisements with totally unfounded claims about harassment and intimidation.”

Ujueta, however, maintains that the workers are just doing what they have to do to secure their right to join a union and to ensure fair and safe working conditions.

“We are doing the right thing as employees by asking for our rights and to be treated the right way,” said Ujueta. “Right now we are doing everything step by step, so I can’t tell you much about [what’s next], but there will be other actions we will be taking in case they don’t want to work with us.”



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