Though Local 25 union representatives said an Aramark walk-out is still a possibility if this week’s contract negotiations do not meet workers’ demands, company representatives are discounting threats of a GW food service strike.
Local 25 Crisis Management Director Jorge Rivera said workers may vote to strike if negotiations this week do not address their complaints, which include inconsistent pay, poor benefits and dissatisfaction with management.
Aramark employs more than 100 unionized workers at GW. Aramark does not manage venues on the ground floor of the Marvin Center, the Hall on Virginia Avenue dining facility, Sushi Express or the Malaysian station at J Street.
He said a date for a walk-out has not been set, because workers hope to “surprise” Aramark management if negotiations fail to improve work conditions.
“The decision is something the workers would make at an appropriate time that is strategically convenient,” Rivera said. “They plan to walk out if they are unable to reach compromises on working conditions by the final round of negotiations.”
Contract negotiations began Sept. 12 and are set to end Tuesday. Workers are operating under an interim contract while the final revisions are made to next year’s agreement. The last contract ended July 31.
Michael Peller, director of GW Property Management, said he was unaware of an impending strike.
“Aramark has an obligation to provide service, and I’m confident that they will fulfill that obligation,” he said. “We will not have interrupted services at J Street under any circumstances.”
Peller oversees Dining Services at GW and directs Jim Gillespie, the senior manager for Aramark on campus.
“Everyone has their perspective,” Peller said. “For the employees, these negotiations are important because it determines their pay, benefits and working conditions. This is a critical time for Aramark and the Local 25.”
At an open forum Tuesday night, J Street workers discussed grievances with Aramark. Rivera said unionized Aramark workers also want to remove a clause in their contract banning strikes.
“Management has made a mockery of the grievance procedure, and so we want to be able to have work stoppages when the issue cannot be resolved,” Rivera said.
Peller said Aramark will discipline workers who violate contract clauses. He also called Tuesday night’s forum, which was hosted by the Progressive Student Union, a “rally.”
“We don’t want to inconvenience students, but there are basic issues of human rights that are being violated by Aramark,” Rivera said. “No one wants to walk out. That is the ultimate weapon, and we will use it if we have to.”
-Amanda Mantone contributed to this report.