A better Tulane, a better New Orleans
Sunday November 19th 2017

Remembering that this is not a fair fight: Cowen ignores Sodexo’s unethical and illegal behavior

For over a year, we have been waging a campaign to get living wages and basic respect for Tulane’s food workers. It’s important to remember, however, that this is not a fair fight. Sodexo routintely uses unethical and at times illegal tactics to intimidate workers. They illegally fired Ms. Terry at Loyola’s campus and have used all of the tactics described in a report released by Human Rights Watch in September (view the report here). [Note: TransAfrica will be releasing another independent report on Sodexo in January; New Orleans will be the only U.S. city discussed in that report].

This report details the many ways Sodexo has intimidated and abused their workers to prevent them from organizing for better conditions. Ultimately, the report concluded that Sodexo has “a management culture of deeply imbued hostility to workers’ organizing rights. Under US labor law, Sodexo is entitled to infuse anti-union hostility into its management culture. But this would not be the policy of a company adhering to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ILO core labor standards and other international norms. If, on the other hand, local managers’ actions are contrary to company policy, they reflect a failure to push down to local management levels Sodexo’s commitment to freedom of association.”

Here are some highlights from that report:

“Despite claims of adherence to international standards on workers’ freedom of association, Sodexo has launched aggressive campaigns against some of its US employees’ efforts to form unions and bargain collectively. Sodexo managers have used many of the tactics described above that, while legal under US law, violate international standards requiring non-interference with workers’ organizing rights. These have included: holding captive-audience meetings in which workers must sit through managers’ diatribes against trade unions without being able to hear from union representatives in the workplace at any time, including during breaks or lunch periods; requiring front-line supervisors to carry management’s anti-union message into one-on-one conversations with employees; and threatening workers that they can be permanently replaced if they exercise the right to strike for improved wages and conditions. But in some instances, Sodexo has crossed the line to anti-union behavior unlawful under both US law and international standards.”

“The firings were the most effective tactic Sodexo used to undermine workers’ organizing efforts, but Sodexo management also held a series of captive-audience meetings with anti-union videos. In these meetings, managers told workers that wages would be frozen if they voted for the union and pressured workers to revoke the union authorization cards they had signed.”

“While acceptable under US law, forcing workers into mandatory captive-audience meetings to watch anti-union videos and listen to anti-union speeches, without opportunity for workers to hear from union representatives at the workplace, runs counter to international standards on freedom of association.”

“These unfair labor practices are so egregious as to make a fair election impossible.”

“Recent developments indicate that Sodexo still resists workers’ new organizing attempts. The neutrality agreement between Sodexo and the unions covering organizing procedures at selected company locations ended in 2009.[229] Since then, Sodexo has again expressed hostility toward unions and workers’ organizing efforts, and taken steps to thwart union formation.”

“When workers began an organizing effort in late 2009, management responded by…demanding that workers sign an anti-union petition, interrogating workers about their union activity, and telling workers that their organizing efforts were under surveillance.”

Sodexo has used all of these tactics at Tulane and Loyola.

So what does this tell us about what’s happening at Tulane and Loyola? President Cowen and his administration continue to claim that there are no worker’s rights issues on our campus, and refuses to acknowledge any wrongdoing on the part of Sodexo. This means one of two things: President Cowen is genuinely oblivious to the way Sodexo operates, or he is consciously working with Sodexo to prevent workers from getting living wages and basic respect.

E-mail President Cowen at email hidden; JavaScript is required and make sure he’s informed about Sodexo’s illegal and unethical business practices.

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