Workers' rights activists return to Plaza to protest Sodexo

A small group of George Mason University students took to the North Plaza on Thursday to protest food service provider Sodexo’s allegedly abusive workplace practices.

Mason was the site of several large-scale student and worker protests last spring and fall.

The protesters, about 10 of whom carried signs and passed out fliers, represented Students for Workers’ Rights (SWR), a group which the university does not officially recognize as a student organization.

Students for Workers’ Rights is affiliated with United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), a national campus movement.

The protesters cited low wages, among other concerns including safety and healthcare, as motivating them to take action.

“Workers work up to 16 hours a day and some of them make less than $18,000 a year,” said Emily Miles, an undeclared sophomore and leader of the SWR. “We’re a university, a place to learn and grow. We shouldn’t have corruption and people who work here should be making living wages.”

Other group members echoed Miles’s concerns.

“Many workers are paid minimum wage, and it’s not just students working there; these people actually have families,” said Evelin España, a freshman biology major. “Minimum wage is not going to cut it for a family of four.”

España went on to say that the Sodexo employees should be embraced as members of the George Mason community.

“The workers are like Mason family,” España explained. “Our moms and dads aren’t here, so they’re like our moms and dads. Just because they’re workers doesn’t mean they don’t have the same rights as everyone else. Mason Patriots are Mason Patriots.”

Students walking past were generally supportive, though at least one said the workers’ complaints were unfounded.

“If someone is willing to work for it, it’s a fair wage,” said senior economics major Trevor Dawes. “If the workers don’t want to work for what Sodexo is paying, they won’t and someone else will. If they think they’re being abused then they shouldn’t work for Sodexo. No one’s forcing them to. I don’t think they have any room to complain.”

Representatives from two official student organizations, Joe Gallant of the College Democrats and Andrea Filsen of the Hispanic Students Association, indicated that their respective groups would take action to support the Sodexo workers.

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