‘This is about unfair labor practices’

by   Posted on April 26th, 2010 in Opinion

By Kenny Reyna

I am writing today in support of the Sodexo workers who have been mobilizing on campus and had a strike last week in response to unfair labor practices at George Mason University. The letter that the Dining Services Committee of Student Government released claims that workers are lying about what has happened to them. How can you sleep with yourself making such bold, unsubstantiated remarks?

That letter is an obvious response from a subcommittee that is not interested in representing students. Instead they have taken a clear stance, without speaking to students or workers, in support of Sodexo management. By going against workers and representing the company of Sodexo, they are taking an administrative stance, and not one for students. Anti-union fliers have also been given to workers, which is clearly nothing but an obvious attempt to manipulate Sodexo workers and the public, to thus deviate and discredit the claims, efforts and stories that employees came forth with. After examining the letter, one can tell that panic and alarm were the driving forces to this childish response and that it is not a letter of valid concern over the well-being of their workers.

It is up to us, the students, to write to Broadside, Mason’s president, Sodexo and anyone else we can think of about how we feel. We are the consumers and thus the most important part of this. We need to diplomatically and respectfully go to Sodexo with humble dignity and talk to them about what morals, ethics and values should be applicable in their mission as a company.

Rather than accusations and criticism towards workers, the stories of the workers must be uncovered. For instance, employees told me about a lady working for Sodexo who is now in a full back brace because she was hurt on the job. Instead of supporting her, Sodexo is now illegally stealing her vacation to pay for her workman’s compensation. I met another worker who received a really bad first-degree burn and when she asked to be taken to the hospital, her manger coldly told her that if she wanted to go, she could walk. When she indicated she was unable to do this, he then made her work for another hour and a half. There are many more workers I met who have stories of their own to tell. It is obvious that because many workers struggle to speak English or come from other countries where there aren’t strong labor laws, they do not understand their rights in the U.S. and are afraid to say anything. What if this was your mother? What if this was your sister? Sodexo is using tools of fear on their own workers.

People: aside from the politics, aside from the press, the coloration, the smoke and mirrors, this is very real. This is happening and by standing by idly, we are letting it happen. This is not about being a liberal or a conservative; it’s not about immigration status or budget cuts. This is about unfair labor practices to those who came into this country legally like all Americans did at one time. We must remind ourselves again that we have more power than we think. We must remind ourselves that strength in numbers will prevail. We must show once again what a promised land does.

Kenny Reyna
Economics Major

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