WEB EXCLUSIVE: J Street employees stop work in protest

Posted 1:50 a.m. Dec. 13-Chanting together and displaying union pins, J Street workers left their work stations and stopped working for one minute at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday to protest what they call unfair labor practices. About 15 students, mostly members of the Progressive Student Union, joined about 25 J Street workers near Starbuck’s to protest Aramark, the company that manages GW’s food service.

“We’re here to expose the injustice that Aramark is doing and on top of that we’re here to show solidarity with the workers,” PSU member Eleiza Braun, a junior, said. “We’ve been talking to them a lot and realize that there are some pretty oppressive conditions going on by Aramark toward the workers.”

“We are the union, the mighty, mighty union,” students and workers chanted.

Among other complaints, J Street workers say:

o managers disrespect them
o they do not receive proper salary or health insurance
o they are not allowed to display union buttons

GW Dining Services and Aramark officials failed to return repeated phone calls for comment.

Aramark has been the food service provider to GW for five years.

Students and J Street workers said Aramark has treated the workers with disrespect by enforcing “unjust” rules.

“They are threatened with losing their jobs. To get their sick leave they have to have a doctor’s note each time,” said PSU member Jessica Farley, a junior.

The PSU is 20 years old, making it the longest-standing progressive group at GW, sophomore member Allison Robbins said.

“We heard that the J Street workers were having trouble, and it was one of our issues,” Robbins said.

Workers said conditions have gotten worse since May, when Aramark brought in new management. The PSU has supported the workers since the end of September, Robbins said.

“You have problems with all companies. But some companies do respect your contract, but this one hasn’t,” J Street worker James Laboarad said. “They’ve been here 5 years, and I’ve been here 12, so this is my house.”

Aramark fails to show workers their weekly timesheets, and employees are not being fully compensated, workers said.

Aramark employee Howard Everett said he is only being paid for eight hours a day even though he works 10.

J Street workers also allege they are not permitted to carry cell phones or pagers.

Employees said their family members can reach them for emergencies by calling a certain phone number, but messages are not being transferred to them.

One J Street worker refuses to obey the rule prohibiting the use of cell phones at work.

“I’ve got two kids, six and four, and they are in school. I need a phone at all times,” worker Lolita Mickle said. “I’m gonna have a cell phone no matter what because my kids are away from me.”

J Street worker Miriam Patterson said Aramark employees have signed petitions, sent letters to Aramark headquarters and are now seeking the advice of an attorney to decide upon future action.

“We want to show them that there is unity and we’re not going to give up,” Patterson said.

Other non-PSU member students supported the Wednesday protest.

“I know what it’s like to be an employee and to not get paid on time. And that’s an issue that I think is pretty ridiculous all around,” junior T. J. Miller said.

Some students said they think students need to treat the workers with more respect.

“They really care about serving the students and what they do, which is hard to imagine given they just serve students all day. But they care about it, and they deserve respect,” Farley said.

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