Students protest Aramark worker layoffs

“Aramark, rich and rude. We don’t like your attitude,” chanted about 35 demonstrators in front of the Marvin Center Friday afternoon. Holding colorful signs while circling in front of the building, students and area workers rallied in support of Aramark employees who recently lost their jobs at the University.

Members of the Progressive Student Union and Jewish Progressive Political Association led the rally, which attracted several passersby on their way out of the Marvin Center. Students also passed around a petition to give workers their jobs back, which they gave to Aramark at the end of the afternoon. About 1,000 people signed their names.

Kim Davis, Aramark resident district manager, said last week the layoffs were within the workers’ contracts. When asked Friday about the number of layoffs and the student support rally, Davis said he preferred questions in writing and would try to e-mail replies this weekend. No comments were received as of press time.

Aramark saw a 30 percent decrease in business this semester, according to past Hatchet articles. University administrators attributed the decrease in sales this semester to the new Colonial Cash system. For the first time, students can spend meal points at on- and off-campus locations, creating competition for Aramark.

“The way I see it, Colonial Cash was announced last year,” said senior Annie Lipsitz, a member of the Progressive Student Union who was collecting signatures at the rally. “Anybody would be able to foresee, obviously, that there (would be) a drop in business.”

Shop Steward Muriel Patterson said Aramark could have prevented a drop in business by changing its structure and offering more food variety this semester. As shop steward, Patterson said she “polices” the workers’ contracts. She has worked at GW for 24 years and is also production supervisor for Bene Pizza.

“Part of the reason business has dropped is because of the menu cycle,” Patterson said. “(Aramark) has gotten away from fine dining and has turned into a fast food explosion.”

Last week, Aramark officials told The Hatchet the company was looking forward to a continued relationship with GW and was working with student groups to identify how to provide students with better services.

A new dining venue is scheduled to open Monday – the J Street Marketplace. Located at the site of the former wrap station, the Marketplace will serve fresh fruit and cereal, among other items, Davis said.

The wrap station and Salad Garden were combined last week.

Davis said Aramark considered “morphing” the two venues and adding the Marketplace for “some time.”

The Ames Dining Hall at the Mount Vernon Campus is also being re-modeled and is set to re-open Dec. 1. More food options, such as a Grilleworks station, pizza and pasta station and Salad Garden, will be installed.

At least seven former employees attended Friday’s rally, giving thanks for students’ and other union members’ support. The women stood together on the sidewalk, speaking to interested students and expressing discontent with their former employer.

Kyvette Ruffin, who worked at Taco Bell, received a letter from Aramark on Nov. 21 notifying her of her job termination. According to the letter, the reason for layoff was a “reduction in staffing.”

Former Subway worker Charletta Warren said Aramark hired her in September and fired her last week. Warren, a single mother and student at another university, said she supports her four-year-old child herself.

“I will look for other work now. I have bills to pay.” Warren said. “That’s (better than) going on welfare … those are pennies you get at welfare.”

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