In the midst of a campaign for campus-wide unionization of Aramark employees, Georgetown has reaffirmed its ongoing commitment to the Just Employment Policy. The university wrote a letter to CEO Eric J. Foss last Wednesday, Feb. 25, to remind Aramark management of the addendum to their contract mandating the respect and protection of employees’ right to a fair process to organize .
The letter reads, “As a Catholic and Jesuit institution, Georgetown University is committed to justice and the common good, which includes affirming the dignity of human work and respecting the rights of workers.”
The letter is a response to the recent push to unionize Aramark employees at Einstein Bros. Bagels, Hoya Court, and the Georgetown University Hotel and Conference Center. The original union contract, signed in March of 2012 between labor union UNITE HERE Local 23 and Aramark, did not extend union protections to employees of Aramark establishments that have opened since the contract was signed, according to GSC member Chris Wager (SFS ’17).
The university’s reminder echoes the letter sent to Aramark management in Feb. 2011, 14 days prior to the original settlement of a collective bargaining agreement with UNITE HERE. Cognizant of the success of the past gesture, representatives of the Georgetown Solidarity Committee in the Advisory Committee on Business Practices met with Director for Business Policy and Planning Cal Watson and Vice President for Public Affairs Eric Smulson the Monday before the letter was released to request the public statement of Georgetown’s stance.
“We collectively remembered that when the workers at Leo’s originally unionized, the university issued a similar statement, not endorsing one position over another, but just stating that the Just Employment Policy requires a fair process for everyone involved,” GSC member Caleb Weaver (SFS ’16) said.
Expanded union representation would require the drafting of a separate contract between those workers who have not yet unionized and Aramark, according to Wager. UNITE HERE representatives, however, say that the decision on how to proceed has not been finalized, and will fall upon the workers to decide.
“[The letter] was pretty much a relief because it feels like we’re getting closer to gaining the fair process we all want. We are now a step closer to it,” said Francisco Lopez, an employee at Elevation Burger in Hoya Court who has been active in unionization efforts.
Lopez said that management has not openly reacted to the workers’ announcement of organization efforts since the rally on Feb. 18, where they presented a petition to Aramark management alongside approximately 100 students. Reminding Aramark of the workers’ “freedom of association without intimidation, interference or retaliation,” the statement serves as a “safeguard” for workers, according to Wager.
Aramark spokeswoman Karen Cutler reiterated the company’s compliance with the university’s Just Employment Policy and commitment to a good faith bargaining agreement with UNITE HERE in response to the letter.
Although the university’s reaffirmation of the Just Employment Policy marks a strong step towards the realization UNITE HERE’S goals, it does not go as far as to make any concrete demands about full time employment at Georgetown.
“GSC and the workers on campus as well, would love to see the JEP go farther in making a more concrete demand about full time employment at Georgetown,” Weaver said.
While GSC hopes for reforms to the JEP, this remains a long-term goal for the group. For now, the group is focusing its efforts on student organization to further workers’ demands to unionize Aramark employees without representation and to establish better working conditions for campus workers in general. These efforts will culminate in a rally on March 20 in the hopes of bringing Aramark-union contract negotiations to a close.