Aramark workers seek change

Aramark food service employees are organizing with their union after about six months of difficulties with paychecks and disputes with management, employees said Friday.

Two J Street employees who asked to remain anonymous and have worked at the University for more than 10 years said almost every payday some employees receive less money than they are owed in their paychecks. About 75 employees signed a petition brought to the D.C. Wage and Hour Board, indicating they had problems with the payroll system.

Victor Younger, senior food service director for Aramark, said the glitches lie in a new automated payroll system. Paychecks do not always show the correct clock-in and clock-out times for employees.

Younger said communication lines going down and construction can interfere with the system. He said employees who do not get paid properly are reimbursed with petty cash, from which taxes are deducted.

All of my employees know that if there’s a problem, we will take care of it, Younger said.

But the two J Street employees said the difficulties have persisted since August and said the problems must be resolved.

In addition to payroll glitches, the two said some employees are having difficulty with their tax information. Some residents of Virginia were taxed for the District, creating obstacles to filing taxes appropriately.

The two also said the work atmosphere at J Street is filled with tension because management is disrespectful to many of the employees.

Employees filed grievances against management with Local 25, the union to which they belong. At least three were filed Dec. 9, 1999, by J Street employees. Two of the grievances were classified as pay rate/job classification complaints, and the other was filed as disability payment. All three grievances were addressed to J Street Food Service Director Rawn Burnett. Burnett declined to comment.

The two employees said mutual respect should exist between management and personnel. They said management fails to show regard for the employees’ feelings.

I want to be treated like a man, one of the anonymous employees said. The other said the management is violating their rights and said enough is enough.

After the snow days in January, employees who never had absentee problems were written up for missing work, they said. Four write-ups can lead to termination.

In a letter to Aramark Services, Inc., located in Philadelphia, the employees wrote a brief statement about current working and wage conditions.

Each week employees are being threatened with write-ups.We, the employees, are tired of all the foolishness and/or problems, according to the letter that was faxed Friday and signed the employees of Local 25. Leaders at the Aramark headquarters asked that all questions be directed to Younger and other local managers.

According to the contract, employees shall be granted three sick days to be used for illness per year, and an eligible employee may bank up to a maximum of seven unused sick days. GW canceled classes for two days because of the snow emergency in the District.

The union agreed with management on contract modifications, and employees are waiting for the new language to be added to an already existing contract.

The new provisions address promotions, lay-offs and seniority. The new language also clarifies stipulations regarding discharge, suspension, grievance and arbitration. The modifications include the establishment of a joint labor-management committee, which will meet once a month to discuss common problems.

In addition, union leaders plan to continue discussions with Aramark managers about the payroll situation. John Boardman, executive secretary treasurer of the union, said he is guardedly optimistic.

We’re going to take the agreement in good faith, Boardman said. But we will not sit on our hands if we don’t see results.

In the meantime, one of the employees said he is tired of waiting for changes that still have not come to fruition.

I’m willing to fight for what’s right, he said.

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