J Street union workers rally against management

Sodexo workers held a demonstration Friday at noon, alleging that J Street managers have violated their union contract by cutting hours and staff.

In the past two months, Sodexo, the company that provides GW’s dining services, has cut workers’ hours from 40 hours a week to 30 and laid off about 10 employees since December, several workers said.

All Sodexo employees, as well as dozens of students, donned buttons displaying their support for Sodexo workers and the union’s rights.

Sam Nelson, a member of GW’s Progressive Student Union, helped organize the protest to raise awareness among students.

“We need to consider Sodexo workers part of the GW community, like professors and faculty,” Nelson said.

Allison Burket, an organizer with UNITE HERE, the union that represents Sodexo employees at GW, said while venues at the eateries have changed, many workers have been there for upward of 20 years.

“The relationship is strained,” she said.

Burket and UNITE HERE declined to provide a copy of the union contract, which was last fixed in 2011. The next negotiation is set for 2014.

J Street general manager Bernadette Thomas said Sodexo is “following the process outlined in the [collective bargaining] agreement” agreed upon in 2011. She added that recent staffing changes still allowed workers with scaled back hours to receive health insurance.

“The changes that were recently implemented fall within the guidelines of that 2011 contract,” Thomas said.

She declined to comment when asked why workers’ hours were cut.

Sodexo employee Rochelle Kelly said workers sometimes serve up to 50 students at a time due to the layoffs, and that managers have also screamed at workers and discouraged them from talking to students.

“What they’re taking us through is just emotional, stressful and is a problem with everybody,” she said.

Former Sodexo employee Rosita McCollum said she was fired last week after 12 years as a server, and many employees say the recent layoffs make the working environment uncomfortable.

A cook for Metro Diner, Therrece Brown, said she is worried about her future with Sodexo and whether management will keep her around.

Sodexo employees across the city, from school cafeterias, to hospitals and government buildings, are organizing a city-wide rally at the African American Civil War Memorial Feb. 28.

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