A better Tulane, a better New Orleans
Wednesday December 19th 2018

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

In 1948, the U.S. ratified the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Many of the rights enumerated in Articles 23, 24 and 25 are being denied to workers on Tulane’s campus.

Article 23.

  • (1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
  • (2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
  • (3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
  • (4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Article 24.

  • Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

Article 25.

  • (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
  • (2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

How do these apply to Tulane?

All of these rights have been violated on Tulane’s campus. Tulane contracts with Sodexo, and has the power to dictate the terms of that contract and whether or not it is renewed. Tulane is therefore responsible for Sodexo’s practices on our campus. Here are the issues:

Right of Recall: Most Sodexo workers at Tulane are laid off every summer. Sodexo has no obligation to rehire any of them. Although Sodexo claims that it gives each employee a “return to work” date before laying them off for the summer, Sodexo and Tulane have refused to make this promise legally binding. This means that any worker can be fired and not rehired, with absolutely no transparency or accountability. Tulane and Sodexo don’t want to make a real commitment to rehiring the workers, because they can and have used this behind-closed-doors process to intimidate workers and try to prevent them from organizing. *NOTE: Workers have been granted the right of recall for the fall of the 2010! Thank you to everyone who helped in achieving this victory! But it is only one small step.

Living Wages: Employees who have been working at Tulane for years struggle to make ends meet with the wages Sodexo provides. Although Sodexo claims that its average “starting wage”  of $8/hr is higher than the average in all of Louisiana, many workers who have been here for 5, 10, all the way up to 40 years make just barely over $8/hr, which is not a livable wage in New Orleans. Not giving our employees a living wage denies them “just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity,” and tarnishes Tulane’s reputation as a school committed to helping the New Orleans community.

Health Care: Sodexo claims to offer its employees “a robust healthcare benefits package.” But most Sodexo workers at Tulane can’t afford this package. For Miss Joyce Bradley, who has been here for 40 years, the package would be 40% of her paycheck. Mr. Herb works a second job because the healthcare costs so much of his paycheck. And Miss Doris came to work in excruciating pain for 3 years because she could not qualify for the hip operation she needed under Sodexo’s benefits package. For whom is this health care robust?

In our society, and especially on Tulane’s campus, employers are expected to take care of their employees. But Sodexo’s expensive health care plans deny employees “a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”

Dignity and Respect: Sodexo workers are routinely shown disrespect by their managers–even employees who have shown amazing loyalty and dedication to Tulane, working here long before we contracted with Sodexo and staying here as working conditions got worse because of their love for the students. See Worker Testimonials for more on the way Sodexo has denied basic dignity to its workers.

Threats and Intimidation: At Loyola, Sodexo fired Miss Terry Shelley, supposedly for letting a police officer and her supervisor’s children into the Orleans Room for free, something that has been common practice there for a long time. Miss Terry has been an outspoken advocate for the union, and charges have been filed with the NLRB over her firing. At Ohio State University, it was found that Sodexo had wrongfully fired an organizing worker, and the worker was reinstated.

Other workers have reported being threatened or intimidated by management. While on the clock, all Sodexo workers on campus were required to attend secret, behind-closed-doors meetings with professional union busters, and told that if they did not go they would be written up. Sodexo is abusing its power and taking up time that workers are supposed to be preparing food for the community to frighten and intimidate them. The union doesn’t have the power to require workers to do anything. How can they say that they aren’t getting in their side of the story, when they tell workers that if they don’t accept a side of the story most workers know to be false, they will lose their job?

MissTerry.jpg

Ms. Terry from Loyola tells the City Council how Sodexo wrongfully fired her for organizing.

Photo by Brian Lawdermilk.

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