A group of Georgetown students and workers from Hoya Court, Einstein Bros., and Leo’s rallied on Wednesday to present two petitions to Aramark managers in Hoya Court. A group of non-unionized, Hoya Court and Einstein Bros. workers presented a petition asking Aramark for a fair process to organize as workers while the Georgetown Solidarity Committee also presented its petition to Aramark in support of both unionized and non-unionized workers.
“This is the first time that we’ve presented [the GSC petition] directly to managers… they’ve been aware of its existence,” Georgetown Solidarity Committee member Claire Kelly (COL ‘17) said.
Negotiations between Aramark and the current union of Leo’s workers will begin on Friday.
“We hope that Aramark chooses to make the right decision. … Students are going to keep pushing for our community members,” said GSC member Lily Ryan (COL ‘18). “The workers are part of our community.”
The Hoya Court petition, signed by 83 percent of Hoya Court employees, asks not only for Aramark to recognize their right to unionize, but also for Aramark to treat the Hoya Court employees with respect, according to Subway employee Erenia Pacheco.
Unlike Leo’s, Cosi, and Starbucks employees, workers at Hoya Court and Einstein Bros. do not have any contract with Aramark. Leo’s worker Donte Crestwell, said, “Workers here [without contracts] are the same [as us]. They have bills to pay and families to feed just like us.”
Crestwell was involved in the initial unionization of Aramark workers in 2011. “Today is about the same message, that we are equal to [workers at] other universities and deserve respect,” he said.
Pacheco described examples of worker mistreatment of non-unionized employees and threats of being fired from managers that sparked this desire to ask for the fair process to organize.
“There was an incident where a manager was about to slap a worker’s hand. And they’ll just be calling out our names like ‘stupid’ and all this,” Pacheco said. “Who would want to come to work knowing that you’re going to work at a place where nobody respects you? If it wasn’t for us, this operation wouldn’t be running.”
Additionally, she recalled an incident in which a manager at Hoya Court refused to accept a note she received from a doctor for missing work due to illness, then demanded to see it weeks later.
“[There is] a lot of disrespect going around here,” Elevation Burger employee Francisco Lopez said. “Too many people are getting yelled at like they’re their own son. Some people are getting yelled at like they’re animals.”
According to Lopez, there is a fear that workers will be fired for any small mistake. “Everyday you shouldn’t be coming to work thinking, ‘oh I’m going to get fired, I might get fired today if I do this or do that,” Lopez said.
Furthermore, the only way for employees to express their concerns or file complaints is through a corporate hotline.
“For employees who are not represented or those that are and feel uncomfortable using the grievance process, we have a toll-free employee hotline that allows our employees to confidentially report any workplace issues or problems,” Karen Cutler, Director of Corporate Communications at Aramark, wrote in an email to the Voice.
However, according to Lopez, this hotline is ineffective. “All they tell us to do is call that hotline that’s in the back, the Aramark Corporate. …you know it’s going to take them a week to get back to us. …we just have to deal with it.”
Despite the reported incidents, Pacheco expressed her gratitude in seeing the student support through the GSC petition and the student presence at the rally on Wednesday.
“I feel so grateful [for the student support]. When I first heard about it, I was like ‘Oh my god,’ you see how crazy it is that students care more about our work than our own managers,” Pacheco said.
According to Kelly the student support is about providing momentum after workers initiated a dialogue. “When this started picking up speed, it was because worker’s told us something was wrong.”
Student members of the American University Worker’s Alliance, Cass Harlos (AU ’18), and Ellie Bloomberg (AU ’18), also attended the rally, and were positive about it and its aims. The AU Worker’s Alliance is currently involved in its own conflict with Aramark, according to Harlos. “Aramark has been understaffing, cutting hours, and other general signs of disrespect against workers that are violating their contracts,” she said.
With the negotiations on Friday and the presentation of the petition on Wednesday, the Hoya Court employees remain hopeful that their requests will have an impact on their current working conditions, according to Pacheco.
“Hopefully they’ll stop with their attitudes, and screaming at people and stuff, and treat us with respect, and the business will keep running like before,” Pacheco said.
Lopez expressed similar sentiments on the impact that their petition will have on the negotiations.
“Hopefully if we do get the fair process and have a chance to do that, they’ll be more willing to listen to us, and sit down and have one on one conversations with us now that they see that we’re actually serious about that we can’t take all this mistreatment,” Lopez said. “That’s all we want in the first place, is for them to listen to us.”