Dressed in red amid the blues and grays of Wall Street, union leaders pounded drums and shouted over loudspeakers yesterday to add a voice of dissent among the limos and police protection that lined Front Street in the financial district during Goldman Sachs’ annual shareholders meeting. The Service Employees International Union organized the event to ask Sachs to pressure food service provider Aramark, in which the bank holds a 20% stake. As the rally went on outside the meeting, representatives from the union addressed shareholders to demand improved labor conditions at the food services giant. Current and former employees claim that Aramark provides unfair wages and fires workers who attempt to organize for better pay and benefits.
“I was trying to organize my co-workers so that we could get the things we need” said Antonio Gomez, a former worker at Houston’s Convention Center, where Aramark provides cleaning services. Gomez said he organized partly to remedy a lack of health care coverage and was subsequently fired by the company.
“When people would get sick or injured, [Aramark] would basically say ‘That’s your problem,’ and ‘If you can’t come to work, don’t bother coming back at all’” he said.
A press representative from Aramark declined to comment on these specific allegations, citing company policy on privacy, but disputed the union's claims more generally, saying that the company provides competitive wages and benefits. The company also said it has a 50-year relationship with unions nationwide, including SEIU.
“As a services business we rely on the quality of services provided by our employees, for that reason we make an effort to provide competitive wages” said Christine Grow, a press representative for Aramark. “A vast majority of our employees have access to health care benefits.”
The workers came to the Goldman Sachs meeting after a nationwide fact-finding tour of sites run by Aramark and say that they want to put a human face on the decisions Sachs makes as a primary stakeholder in Aramark. The union said many of these problems began when Aramark went private. Their list of concerns extends from the company shortchanging school districts in Detroit on bulk-order food to 33 major health-code violations at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA.
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From CNN Money (4/10/08) *Abridged
Meanwhile in New Haven, Connecticut, there is a rally to oust Aramark from the local school district
Late Wednesday afternoon, workers also went to the offices of Warburg Pincus and CCMP Capital, two of Aramark's other private-equity buyers, where they spoke to representatives of the firms. "They were polite enough to listen to us, but they said the big bosses were in a meeting," says Mark Williams, who works for Aramark at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia.
"Since the private equity deal, the company has become more arrogant," he says. "They seem tougher in union negotiations. They want us to work more to earn health-care benefits."
Some unionized Aramark workers in New York are also striking as part of a contract dispute, attracting attention from passersby with an eight-foot-tall inflatable skunk on 52nd Street. They work in three cafeterias, at the CBS Building in Midtown and two offices of the Bank of New York in lower Manhattan. At all three cafeterias the workers are employed by Aramark, not the tenants.
CBS (CBS, Fortune 500) and Bank of New York (BK, Fortune 500) spokespeople said their companies have no plans to get involved in the dispute. "Over the years, many CBS employees have gotten to know and appreciate the men and women employed in our cafeteria," says CBS spokesperson Shannon Jacobs. The cafeterias have stayed open during the protests.
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Mobilization Alert: Rally Against Aramark April 14 in New HavenSEIU and UNITE-HERE have united to hist a website called Facts On Aramark
The campaign to expel the private company Aramark from New Haven’s public schools continues with an April 14 rally in front of New Haven City Hall on 165 Church St. Join New Haven public service workers and AFSCME International President Gerald McEntee on the steps of City Hall as we renew our call to stop corrupt privatization and incompetent outsourcing.
Parents, students, and school employees are urging members of the New Haven Board of Alderman to cut all ties with the private contractor Aramark because of the company’s mismanagement of food services and facilities maintenance.
Aramark is under fire because of the poor quality of food services and facility management in the New Haven school system. New Haven has contracted with Aramark for the last 12 years — at a cost of millions to the taxpayers.
Community members are telling elected officials to return the New Haven school system to a self-management model that would save taxpayers millions and provide better services to the kids.
News stories on Aramark in New Haven:
- Click here to read “Chicken — and Company” — Blasted in the New Haven Independent.
- Click here to read “Aramark Excoriated at Aldermen’s Public Hearing” in the New Haven Register.
- Click here to watch ”Clean Schools” on Fox 61 News.
- Click here for a press release on Council 4’s billboard campaign pointing to the waste caused by bear proof dumpsters.
- Click here to read “Union billboards slam Aramark on trash bins” in the Feb. 12 New Haven Register.
- Click here to read “Trash Talkin” in the Feb. 13 New Haven Advocate.
- Click here to read “School board to seek new food, facilities pacts as unions rally against Aramark” in the Feb. 2 New Haven Register.
- Click here to read the editorial “City should end dealings with Aramark” co-authored by Council 4 Executive Director Sal Luciano and New Haven Central Labor Council President Bob Proto.
- Click here to read “Custodians Want Break with Aramark” in the Jan. 14 New Haven Register.
- Click here to read “School Custodians: Fire Aramark” in the Jan. 15 New Haven Independent.
- Click here to read “School Workers Petition to Cut Ties with Aramark” in the Jan. 15 New Haven Register.
Learn more about the perils of privatization and contracting out: