Aramark employees told their management on Feb. 9 that they intend to unionize as a part of Unite Here, a foodservice union. The announcement comes after more than a year of clandestine planning by Aramark workers, who were later joined by Unite Here union organizers and Georgetown students and professors.
The unionization effort by the Aramark employees—who operate Leo J. O’Donovan Dining Hall, Cosi, Starbucks, and other venues on campus—sparked on-going negotiations between Unite Here and Aramark.
Over at the Voice, Editor-in-Chief Molly Redden has the full story of the workers’ campaign to unionize. According to multiple Aramark employees, the push for unionization was a direct response to disrespectful treatment from their managers, as well as poor pay and benefits.
“They made it easy for us to make this decision, the way we were getting treated,” Donté Crestwell, a 14-year Aramark employee, told the Voice. “Our pay raises are just horrible. Last time we had a raise, a lot of [employees] got 12 cents. Mine was 55 cents, and that was probably one of the highest.”
Nonetheless, Aramark has promised to comply with the University’s Just Employment Policy, which requires all vendors to respect workers’ rights, including the right to organize.
“Aramark is neither anti-union, nor pro-union,” Karen Cutler, the director of communication for Aramark, wrote in an email to the Voice. “We fully comply with the University’s Just Employment Policy process, in addition to our business conduct policy that requires equal treatment for all employees, and prohibits workplace harassment.”
According to Rachel Pugh, the University’s director of media relations, Georgetown will not be directly involved in the negotiations.
“For over thirty years Georgetown has developed and sustained a mutually respectful, effective and cooperative relationship with our unions,” Pugh wrote in an email. “Any process to unionize would be determined between the employees and their employers.”
It is still unclear which method they will follow in attempting to organize. Under the National Labor Relations Act, their efforts to unionize could result in an election monitored by the National Labor Relations Board. If a simple majority of Aramark employees voted for unionization in that election, the NLRB would recognize the union and Aramark would be obligated to bargain with them.
Alternatively, Aramark could waive the election and recognize the union once workers have demonstrated that one third of their number support unionization by signing a petition, in a process called card-check neutrality.
“Unite Here is one union that has been very aggressive in using [the card-check neutrality] strategy over the years,” Professor Bob Bruno, director of the University of Illinois’s Labor Education Program, told the Voice. “They find that the election process favors the employer. But the employer can insist on the election. It’s really up to Aramark.”