And now, for a lesson in simple economics! When demand for your product drops, for whatever reason, your profit is bound to drop unless you reevaluate the quantity you are supplying of said product. To continue operating at a profit after your demand drops, you must drop the amount of labor or capital involved in your operation.
So when Aramark saw a significant (30 percent) decrease in profit and laid-off workers it wasn’t because Aramark officials are grinches and wanted to be mean. It’s because Aramark had to alter its operating costs to keep business at profitable levels.
Yet despite the obvious logic in Aramark’s decision, liberal members of the GW Progressive Student Union and the AFL-CIO feel the need to protest because they don’t like the unfortunate fact that “60 families will no longer be able to celebrate Thanksgiving as they has planned.” They state that “Aramark’s financial loss is not the fault of the employees. Aramark needs to make itself more competitive and provide better quality food and service.” Well, welcome to the capitalist world, where employee and employer are undeniably interconnected – when the employer suffers losses the employee will feel that loss, too.
In response to the statement that the losses are the employees’ fault, I beg to differ. When I go to Subway and hear an employee complain, “I hate this fucking job,” or when I show up to Jamba Juice and wait an extra 15 minutes while two employees argue about which one screwed up an order, I may very well choose to take my business elsewhere. I have worked my own share jobs in the food service industry and have friends who have worked at Subways and Burger Kings back in New Jersey. The behavior of some J Street employees would have gotten my friends and I all fired.
One of the more ironic points in the Nov. 21st protest occurred when a Subway worker I’ve repeatedly heard cursing and complaining came out to announce what an injustice it was that she had been laid off. I managed to fight the urge to confront her about her behavior because I was relatively certain the crowd would have pummeled me.
The service at J Street has been inferior since the beginning of the year and this cannot be overlooked in a consideration of why Aramark’s profits have dropped. But further considerations will place partial blame on the students who wished for an expansion of the eateries that GWorld encompasses. One of the protest organizers explained to me that in the past Aramark has had a monopoly on campus dining, but now with the expansion of GWorld into other areas Aramark has to “address (its) product.” This seems to be backward logic. There is no way Aramark can compete with the quality of food at Bertucci’s and the Thai Place. It also can’t compete with the late-night hours of CampuSnacks.com and Domino’s. It was inevitable that there would have to be layoffs as the result of the University responding to student complaints. As the old truism goes, you can’t have your cake and eat it, too.
The one point I must concede to protesters is that the employees received little warning about the cutbacks. The manner in which they were dismissed is reflective of the chant heard that Friday afternoon in front of the Marvin Center: “Aramark, rich and rude, we don’t like your attitude.” While Aramark does have a responsibility as a business to deal with its profit loss, one also expects from the company a certain degree of professionalism. The speed with which employees were laid off was rather uncalled for; Aramark must have known that its profits were slipping therefore certainly had time to prepare its response to the situation.
The protests against Aramark are something I would not expect from any student who comprehends the reality of the business world. To maintain profits, sometimes a business must take actions that are as unwanted as they are necessary. Protests that accuse Aramark of destroying workers’ rights and expect Aramark to operate at a loss are an exercise in naivet?. They show a misunderstanding of reality that I did not expect from GW students. I am sorry for the workers who have lost their jobs, but I hope they realize that Aramark’s actions are business, not personal. And I also hope the students who believe otherwise will open their eyes and realize that they live in a real world where distasteful actions are sometimes necessary.
–The writer is a freshman majoring in international affairs.