N.Y. protest portends more union activity aimed at on-site accounts

N.Y. protest portends more union activity aimed at on-site accounts

NEW YORK —Contract and self-operated foodservice providers should gear up for an increase in union actions against them in coming months, according to union officials representing foodservice workers here.

The first of those actions, an Aug. 9 demonstration organized by UNITE HERE Local 100, a union representing foodservice workers, drew approximately 400 employees from on-site facilities in lower Manhattan, who protested working conditions provided by contract feeders Aramark Corp., Compass Group North America [3] and Sodexho USA. The workers cited what they claimed were low wages, nonexistent benefits and no sick leave as reasons for the rally. —Contract and self-operated foodservice providers should gear up for an increase in union actions against them in coming months, according to union officials representing foodservice workers here.

But union officials, despite targeting the employment practices of the three contractors and some self-op groups, said the demonstration “really was directed at Aramark,” which, they said, was “leading the race to the bottom by showing an unbelievable lack of respect for their employees.” —Contract and self-operated foodservice providers should gear up for an increase in union actions against them in coming months, according to union officials representing foodservice workers here.

Union spokesman Brooks Bitterman said the demonstration, which garnered record attendance, was the union’s “biggest showing” in many years. —Contract and self-operated foodservice providers should gear up for an increase in union actions against them in coming months, according to union officials representing foodservice workers here.

“There’s an amazing amount of anger pent up,” he said, “and that anger is getting focused very acutely on Aramark.” —Contract and self-operated foodservice providers should gear up for an increase in union actions against them in coming months, according to union officials representing foodservice workers here.

Part of the reason for that anger, Bitterman stated, is the inability of Aramark’s workers’ to settle a yearlong labor dispute in which he alleges the company has threatened to cut off health benefits. He added that Aramark and the rest of the industry would see “many more such [demonstrations]” in the future and that “workers are going to be out there asking for the respect they deserve.” —Contract and self-operated foodservice providers should gear up for an increase in union actions against them in coming months, according to union officials representing foodservice workers here.

But Aramark spokeswoman Kristine Grow said the Philadelphia-based company was puzzled as to why the union had staged the rally in the first place as “most, if not all, of our locations in Manhattan are already organized.” —Contract and self-operated foodservice providers should gear up for an increase in union actions against them in coming months, according to union officials representing foodservice workers here.

She further indicated that the company was surprised the union was targeting them specifically, as it was their “understanding that this is an industrywide dispute with the [Service Employees International Union] and UNITE HERE, who are looking to organize foodservice workers nationally whether they work for Aramark or our competitors.” —Contract and self-operated foodservice providers should gear up for an increase in union actions against them in coming months, according to union officials representing foodservice workers here.

Grow added that the company values its employees, saying: “We know our employees are so important to what we do. They’re a key component to our success.” —Contract and self-operated foodservice providers should gear up for an increase in union actions against them in coming months, according to union officials representing foodservice workers here.

The Aug. 9 rally, said UNITE HERE Local 100 union spokesman Matt Furshong, was “an opportunity for foodservice workers to come together and show Wall Street the important work they do and the challenges they face.” —Contract and self-operated foodservice providers should gear up for an increase in union actions against them in coming months, according to union officials representing foodservice workers here.

The protesters were union members and foodservice workers employed at accounts in corporate offices, schools and universities, stadiums, and convention centers in New York City, Furshong said. —Contract and self-operated foodservice providers should gear up for an increase in union actions against them in coming months, according to union officials representing foodservice workers here.

UNITE HERE 100 represents more than 450,000 members across North America in the laundry, foodservice, apparel and textile, and hospitality industries. The group was formed in 2004 when the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees, or UNITE, and the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union, or HERE, merged. —Contract and self-operated foodservice providers should gear up for an increase in union actions against them in coming months, according to union officials representing foodservice workers here.

“Workers right here on Wall Street, serving some of the richest companies in the world, can barely feed their families,” said Bruce Raynor, UNITE HERE general president. “Whether they work directly for a school district or a Wall Street firm or one of the foodservice giants, it’s unconscionable and unnecessary.” —Contract and self-operated foodservice providers should gear up for an increase in union actions against them in coming months, according to union officials representing foodservice workers here.

Citing a long relationship with the union, a representative for Charlotte, N.C.-based Compass Group said she also found the company’s inclusion in the demonstration inexplicable. —Contract and self-operated foodservice providers should gear up for an increase in union actions against them in coming months, according to union officials representing foodservice workers here.

“Compass Group has a good, long-term relationship with UNITE HERE,” said Cheryl Queen, vice president of corporate communications for Compass. “We’re unclear as to why we would be cited in a demonstration. [The company] values its associates and treats them with respect and dignity.” —Contract and self-operated foodservice providers should gear up for an increase in union actions against them in coming months, according to union officials representing foodservice workers here.

A spokeswoman for Gaithersburg, Md.-based Sodexho USA said it too has a positive working relationship with the unions. —Contract and self-operated foodservice providers should gear up for an increase in union actions against them in coming months, according to union officials representing foodservice workers here.

“We have more than 320 collective-bargaining agreements across the U.S.” said Jaya K. Bohlmann, Sodexho’s vice president of public relations. “Our relationships with labor unions are strong in part because we comply fully with both the spirit and the letter of the law in terms of respecting our employees’ rights to unionize or not to unionize, and because we have an excellent track record of engaging in good-faith negotiations when employees have decided to unionize.” —Contract and self-operated foodservice providers should gear up for an increase in union actions against them in coming months, according to union officials representing foodservice workers here.

Bitterman said the employees are “very hardworking people who come in to work at 5 a.m. in order to feed Wall Street, to feed students, to keep New York running. This rally was very much a broad effort to raise standards for workers in the industry. A lot of them work more than one job in order to feed their families. They deserve a decent life.” —Contract and self-operated foodservice providers should gear up for an increase in union actions against them in coming months, according to union officials representing foodservice workers here.

Industry consultant Tom Mac Dermott said union activity has been pretty quiet during the last few years. —Contract and self-operated foodservice providers should gear up for an increase in union actions against them in coming months, according to union officials representing foodservice workers here.

“Nobody I’ve spoken to among contractors, self-ops and host companies has had any concerns about organizing or any union activities,” said Mac Dermott, founder and president of Clarion Group, a Kingston, N.H.-based consulting firm. “I have not heard of one location that’s been organized in more than two years even though I’ve been in situations where I would have thought a union would move in.” —Contract and self-operated foodservice providers should gear up for an increase in union actions against them in coming months, according to union officials representing foodservice workers here.

Mac Dermott added that unions should not necessarily be seen as enemies of the industry. —Contract and self-operated foodservice providers should gear up for an increase in union actions against them in coming months, according to union officials representing foodservice workers here.

“I haven’t negotiated a union contract myself in 15 years, but in all my experience, I’ve not found unions to be a handicap in managing an operation,” he said. “I’ve had very successful operations that were unionized.” —Contract and self-operated foodservice providers should gear up for an increase in union actions against them in coming months, according to union officials representing foodservice workers here.