A union representing a group of J Street employees recently lost a complaint filed against their employer, Sodexo, which alleged that the food service provider lied about subcontracting services at WoW Café and Wingery to another company, an attorney for the employees said this week.
The union, Unite Here Local 25, alleged in a grievance filed last winter that Sodexo had fired its own workers under false pretences, claiming that it had subcontracted the venue to another company. The union claimed that evidence like the basic business license issued to Sodexo and the restaurant’s liquor license in the name of a Sodexo manager suggested that the company was still running the café.
A ruling handed down in early December sided with Sodexo, finding that the food services provider had in fact subcontracted WOW Café and Wingery to another food service provider, despite union workers claims they had not, attorney Richard Bianco said.
The ruling also found, however, that the subcontractor had itself subcontracted the restaurant to another company. A business license currently kept at the venue is filed under the name “Seco USA.”
The workers and Sodexo are currently in negotiations to create a new labor contract. The subcontracting is a main point of contention: The union filed a separate grievance in the fall of 2007, claiming that subcontracting the restaurant to a nonunion company violated their agreement. That grievance is still pending, but the union hopes to negotiate the issue instead.
“Settlement is the preferred method of resolving it rather than litigation because it promotes the parties working together,” Bianco said. “Because at the end of the day, Sodexo and the union have to have an ongoing relationship.”
Bianco said the current agreement will remain in place until a new one has been agreed upon.
“Any agreement is best resolved by the parties instead of asking a third party to come in and decide it for them,” he said. “Amicable resolution is always preferred over litigation.”
Sodexo has been elusive about the subcontracting. Bianco said the union would not have filed a grievance had Sodexo provided proof another company was running WOW. Though the business certificate was licensed to Seco USA on Jan. 15, 2009, as of press time it has not been hung on the wall – as required by law. Instead it is kept in an envelope in the cash register of the restaurant because it consistently fell off the wall where it had been posted, a WOW employee said.
Representatives for Sodexo did not respond to The Hatchet’s requests for comment.
Bianco said he does not know when negotiations will be completed.
“As far as I know, negotiations are proceeding amicably and the parties are doing the best they can,” Bianco said. “It’s still pending. We’re hoping to resolve it, but if not we’re prepared to go forward.”