University Club workers face uncertain future

Anita Reed never thought she would have to worry about losing her job after 25 years of service with GW’s University Club.

Reed, a 65-year-old waitress, was notified in July that the current club in the Marvin Center would close in August to make way for the opening of a new facility on F Street. With that shock came no guarantee of a job in the new club.

“It’s frustrating and scary,” she said.

The new club, managed by the Dallas-based Club Corporation of America did not guarantee the availability of positions for previous workers, said former University Club Director and current Director of Catering Services Robert Truelove.

“Early on, there was a concern with the employees to make sure there would be opportunities,” Truelove said. The Marvin Center location employed 10 full-time workers.

“Some employees interviewed with the new club, some retired and the balance went to catering or other locations on campus,” he said. “No one was left without a position.”

But for Reed, who battles health problems, performing new responsibilities, such as pushing heavy catering carts around campus, is impossible.

“They could have set up some other way,” she said.

Reed now works on-call in the catering department, a job that does not yield many calls, she said.

“Because I’m not working (full-time), I don’t get benefits,” Reed said. “I have to go to the doctor, and I’m worried that my benefits won’t come through.”

Addie Jones, who retired this year after 33 years of service, said she thinks the treatment of the workers was poor.

“If nobody offered them a job or replaced them, they were tossed out into the street,” Jones said. “I think that was wrong.”

Truelove said to the best of his knowledge, all previous employees who did not retire are still employed by Aramark on GW’s campus.

“If they had wanted to stay, we would have provided a position,” Truelove said.

But Reed said employees who wanted to continue with the company were not offered positions.

“Quite a few people went over to the new club and filled out applications, but they weren’t called,” she said.

New University Club Manager Marcia Mata said the new club demanded different skills.

“We were looking for a certain skill set,” Mata said. “It’s a very different type of service. It’s a smaller, more elegant setting. The service is much more formal.”

Employees of the old club were given consideration, Mata said.

“Anyone who had ever been with the University before, we granted them an interview,” she said.

Minor Christian, international organizer for the Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union, Local No. 25, said Aramark should have continued to employ the former employees of the club.

“Obviously this company has taken the position that they do not have sensitivity to the workers who dedicated themselves for many years,” Christian said. “It is unfortunate that they would not take the existing workers who comprised a dynamic work force.”

The employees would have been covered under the District of Columbia Displaced Workers Act, but the club’s move to a new location under new management did not allow the law to be applied to this case.

Christian said the union is evaluating possible actions in response to concerns of Aramark workers at GW.

“It’s going to come to a grassroots struggle and the local union is going to get involved,” he said. “They’re not going to sit there without us having disturbances and demonstrations.”

Manuel Turcios, a former University Club employee who now works in the catering department, said employees became confused about their situation with the club.

“There was a scramble,” Turcios said. “The employees didn’t know where they were going to work.”

Anita Reed said other University Club employees believed the closing of the club and repositioning of workers could have been handled in a better manner. A former club worker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, now works at another Aramark on-campus location.

“None of them are happy with the University,” he said through a Spanish translator. “There was no compensation or thank you.”

Barbara Porter, GW’s director of Public Affairs, said these employees are Aramark workers and offered no further comment.

Tim Karns, assistant director of Catering, said the employees were recognized at a reception held by Aramark on the day the club closed.

“They were all aware that the closing was going to happen,” he said. “It certainly wasn’t a big surprise.”

For Reed, the future of her career remains unclear. She said she hopes that a full-time position will open soon and that she can be assured of her health benefits and the job security she had for the previous 25 years.

“It’s wonderful for the change,” Turcios said, “But we have to remember the old folks who helped build the club.”

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