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

Shaq and Mat

A Reflection on Tulane and Sodexo

I’m Shaq, and I work at Bruff; I’m Mat, and I study at Tulane. We are 20 years old, and we have a message for the Tulane community. We have different perspectives, but we see the same problem.

A Worker’s Perspective:
Hi, I’m Shaq, I’m 20 years old, and I work at Bruff. The best part of my job is to see the students, bring them a smile when they are down, and put love in the food I prepare to teach them about New Orleans and its history. After four years at Bruff, I earn $8 an hour. For the summer months I remain on contract, but there is no work and no money. I’d like to get another job to save money to go to college myself, but its hard to find a good job just for the summer and during the year my schedule is constantly changing. My job can be tiring and dangerous. In one incident I cut my finger and was out of work for a whole year recovering. But what I want to change the most is the way that managers treat workers like me. I feel they treat us like children, and they ignore our suggestions to make our jobs better. They know our work can be dangerous so they require us to use hairnets, cutting gloves, and slip resistant shoes, but we have to pay for protective gear out of our wages. This is especially hard to take when we earn so little. There are no opportunities for promotions—and raises are few and far between. We want to have a career path so we can live a decent life. Most of all we just want to be treated with respect.

A Student’s Perspective:
I’m Mat, a 20-year-old sophomore and Political Economy major. When I first learned about the workers’ rights abuses, one word comes to mind: hypocrisy. I transferred to Tulane excited about service opportunities available here. Connecting to community members would enrich my college experience and my life – it has done neither. In fact, Tulane has watched silently while mistreatment continues against Sodexo campus workers. I’m concerned that alleged human rights abuses have been raised against Sodexo in seven countries, it settled a lawsuit for $20 million for overcharging the New York school system, and also settled a class action lawsuit for racial discrimination. Is this the kind of company that a community-minded university works with? TUPAC has asked the university to adopt a labor code of conduct, but it’s languished in the Social Issues Committee of the University Senate for months. It seems like the university sees us as children, just as Sodexo’s workers say they’re treated like children. We see the fair and reasonable path forward as offering a code of conduct that covers all employees at Tulane, including the employees of contractors like Sodexo. It should guarantee that everyone earns a living wage, everyone can work safely, and everyone is treated with respect. Now, that would be a commitment to the community.

On April 7th, students, professors, and university members can show their commitment to the community at a TUPAC event at 7PM in the Freeman Auditorium Woldenberg Arts Center. We will have the opportunity to speak with a worker fired for organizing at a Sodexo gold mine operation in the Dominican Republic, as well as speakers and representatives of community allies.

By Shaquille Taylor and Matthew Freimuth

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