BREAKING: Aramark employees at GU plan to unionize

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.”

Georgetown’s Letter to Aramark CEO Joseph Neubauer

17 Comments on “BREAKING: Aramark employees at GU plan to unionize

  1. Whoa, they hadn’t already unionized? I thought the reason meal plans were so high was because the staff was well paid. It turns out Aramark is just hoarding the money for itself. It should be interesting to see when the employees get better pay, if they’ll absorb or pass on the expense to the students.

  2. This is wonderful news. I am fully behind the workers, and hope that the Georgetown community will also support their right to unionize, as it is an important part of Catholic Social Teaching.

  3. Bravo Leo’s workers and all involved in this process. Workers of the world unite!

  4. This is a terrible situation. None of this is going to benefit the Leos experience. The employees are already pretty short and abrupt and inefficient, and now they’ll have the unions protection to be even more inefficient.

  5. Hoya Saxa! And totally agreed with “:)”. This is a great chance for everyone who complains about Georgetown not being authentic to its Catholic and Jesuit identity to rally behind the Leo’s workers and support their rights to organize, to be treated with respect, and to receive a just wage, just like the Church calls for in Rerum Novarum! I’m looking at you, Cardinal Newman Society…

  6. Who says they aren’t receiving a just wage? They still aren’t very personable or seem to to enjoy their job. Why didn’t they just go to HR or company managers if they had issues, instead of unionizing. Everything is gonna be so slow now. And now at main rush hour, there will be 0 people swiping instead of just 1, because they can’t be fired, so now the line will go all the way to the MSF instead of just McCarthy.

  7. Well Johnny, why don’t you have a sit on my lap and I’ll tell you a little story about working for a soulless megaconglomerate. You see Johnny, they don’t care about you. They just don’t. Well, that’s a lie. They care about how many pennies they can squeeze out of you, how many jollies their managers can get from being complete assholes or sexually harassing you, and how many minutes they need to schedule you for so that you are just under full time or overtime.

    Now, the brave workers of Leo’s have tried many times to reason with the evil dragon ARAMARK and have met either no response or the firey breath of retaliation reserved specifically for workers who talk about shitty conditions, shitty quality food, health problems, little to no raises (despite working there for decades), unaffordable health care plans, and a whole host of other issues. Believe me, Andrew Lindquist knows all about these things. There have been talks with managers, calls to HR, and talks with Andrew. And surprisingly enough, NOTHING CHANGED. You know why? Because only when workers organize can they have a true voice in their workplace especially when they work for said soulless megaconglomerate. And you know what the really strange thing is? When workers (you know, the people who actually know how a place operates) have a true voice in the workplace, things tend to run a whole lot smoother. You think workers work better when they’re yelled at for no reason by managers? Or when managers turn black and latino workers against each other by showing favoritism? I have a feeling these workers know what’s best for them and their workplace (I’d say they know much better than you, Johnny) and I hope Georgetown students are smart enough to critically think about situations rather than buying into anti-union propaganda put out by the very people who are exploiting workers. Story time is over Johnny, why don’t you talk to a worker and find out what’s really going on?


  8. Supporting the union is good. Higher wages is good. Aramark will pass the cost on to GU. GU will have two choices: cut money from somewhere else to absorb the cost or raise the cost of the meal plan to cover the cost. It’s a zero sum game kids, no matter how good an idea it is. It’s the same reason wireless took so long. It costs money and ya gotta find the money somewhere. Doing one thing means you can’t do an equally valuable other thing (or things).

  9. If Leo’s employees would like higher wages, then they should start providing better service. It often seems like I am the one bothering them because I am asking them to do their jobs. Everyone has stood in line at 6:00 pm outside Leo’s only to find that one person is swiping cards. At peak times, Leo’s employees often wait until nearly all the food is gone at one line until they refill all the trays. While this may sound demeaning and bratty, we must all understand that this is their job. Antonio, for my first two years at Georgetown, was an exemplary employee. Now Antonio is one of the managers at another Aramark location on campus.

    Simply put, unionizing puts workers in a far too powerful bargaining position, and students are the ones who are going to get hurt if they go on strike. Students have no other dining options, and a union should not be allowed to exploit this. While Leo’s employees have the option of working somewhere else, we do not have the option of choosing another on-campus eating location.

  10. I think anyone who says that one person swiping cards at Leo’s is employees’ fault and a union would worsen it has no right to comment on anything work-related ever again. You think Tarshea made the schedule and persistently understaffs the place?


  11. I just got back from Leo’s and had to wait 5 minutes to get a fork and then 5 minutes to get the jelly refilled. The employees responsible for both utensils and the salad bar area were simply standing around. That is not understaffing, that is not doing your job.

  12. @Big Show – Why would you have any incentive to do your job if all you’re getting from it is bad wages, bad managers, and bad attitudes from students? I’d love excellent service everywhere I go too, but as an employee, if I were constantly being demoralized and mis-treated by my employers and occasionally even those who I serve (the students), I wouldn’t have a whole lot of bounce in my step either.

  13. How will unionizing affect PROPERTY VALUES and LOUD PARTIES off-campus?? Let’s make SIGNS ABOUT IT.

  14. @ Sam — seriously doubt Aramark is “hoarding” money. Margins at companies like Aramark are typically around 5-6%, so chances are the pay increases are just going to get passed on to students — including many who have trouble paying $12 – 15 per meal. Or, maybe your dining options/quality will just decrease. As someone else wrote here, it’s a zero-sum game.

  15. If it means that the Leo’s employees have a pleasant place to work, I’ll gladly spare one of the many beers per week I just had at the Tombs in order to cover the cost of unionization. I think many Hoyas would do the same.

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