A better Tulane, a better New Orleans
Saturday January 19th 2019

Sodexo Worker Responds to Corporate Letter

A Worker Responds to Sodexo’s “Open Letter”
By Jeannette Smith, Sodexo Worker at Tulane University – 5:32 PM – April 22, 2010

This letter is cross-posted on the Huffington Post.

This week, the Vice President of Employee & Corporate Relations at Sodexo did an interview with Fox Business News saying that “our employees tell us that Sodexo is a great place to work… the majority of our employees recognize even where they’re active recognize they don’t need that union to create opportunities for themselves at Sodexo.” But, food service workers with Sodexo across the U.S. are fighting for the right of workers to come together to raise standards. Just last week, Sodexo workers were joined by students and community activists for actions in 11 states and nearly 20 campuses.

As a Sodexo food service employee for 6 years, and someone who has worked in this industry for over 16 years, I have a lot to say about my job and the working conditions my coworkers and I experience under Sodexo’s watch.

All across the country, Sodexo employees like me have come together for better conditions like respect, a voice at work, wages that can support our families, and affordable health plans. For too many of us, making ends meet is a daily struggle on Sodexo’s low wages–and health insurance is out of reach. I rely on Section 8 to subsidize my housing costs and some of my other coworkers must also turn to government assistance for housing, food stamps, and health care.

I work at Tulane University in New Orleans. I took this job with hopes of advancing into management–in fact that’s what I was told would be possible. I received the “employee of the month” award last year and I was promoted to an entry level management position. I felt my dreams were coming true. But I soon discovered opportunity without training is still a missed opportunity. I requested training and help, but after being ignored I just did the best I could though we were short staffed and often couldn’t complete all our duties.

In my experience, Sodexo does not want their employees to form a union despite what they say to the press. My manager told us the union wasn’t good. Then my manager asked me forcefully if I signed up to join the union and that if other managers found out I was as good as fired. I felt threatened when she did this and don’t think anyone should have to go through that. I know this is not right and the federal government is investigating whether Sodexo violated my civil rights.

When I saw what Sodexo said in their blog and on TV I was hurt. It was like they were completely ignoring everything we’ve been bringing to their attention for months now. It was like we didn’t even exist. Where is the affordable health insurance? Where is our opportunity to form a union without management intimidation at every turn? Where are the full time hours and advancement? I wish what Sodexo says is true–but it is not the reality for the front line Sodexo employees.

Last week, I was excited to see Sodexo workers, students, and other supporters all stand together across the country. Even workers from France and Britain came to participate, Workers are willing to do whatever it takes to be heard, to stop being mistreated, and to win respect. I’m proud to be a part of this effort to “clean up Sodexo,” and create better jobs that we need so badly right now.

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