Up to 15 dining workers laid off in vendor transition

Media Credit: Hatchet file photo

The Progressive Student Union marches to Rice Hall last spring to demand that dining workers keep their jobs at GW. Leaders from the group said as many as 15 dining employees lost their jobs in the transition from Sodexo to Restaurant Associates this semester.

As many as 15 dining workers lost their jobs in GW’s transition to a new dining vendor this fall.

Restaurant Associates said in March that they anticipated to lay off “under 10” GW dining staffers by the time they took over Aug. 1. But members of the Progressive Student Union said that number was higher and that the remaining employees have been transferred to positions outside of GW or were left without jobs.

PSU leaders said between 12 and 15 dining workers were let go. The remaining 15 staffers were transferred to Restaurant Associates’ catering programs at GW, a current worker who spoke under the condition of anonymity said.

University spokesman Kurtis Hiatt said Restaurant Associates, not GW, is responsible for negotiating with the workers’ union.

“Hiring for dining staff has been finalized and those employees who were not rehired for positions at GW received assistance for placement with other Restaurant Associate or Sodexo accounts,” Haitt said.

Hiatt added that Restaurant Associates has informed the University they are in the process of interviewing workers who were not originally hired for future employment.

Sam Souccar, the senior vice president of creative services at Restaurant Associates, said the organization placed all workers who applied.

“Restaurant Associates has hired the majority of the associates at the Foggy Bottom campus and all the associates at the Mount Vernon campus,” Souccar said.

Souccar added that the remaining displaced associates did not apply for positions and those who were interviewed for and offered positions at other locations were hired.

Souccar declined to confirm the number of employees who were let go or the number of staffers who remain at GW.

Sodexo did not respond to a request for comment.

A former J Street employee who now works in catering at GW said employees consistently worked 40 hours a week while under Sodexo. But the worker said they now only get paid for the hours they work, which can depend on the number of events booked each week.

The worker added that following the transition from Sodexo to Restaurant Associates, staffers didn’t work for almost three weeks and that some had to file for unemployment during that time. The worker said if they make less than 40 hours per week in catering, they need unemployment payments to make up the difference.

“I’m not confident in these people. We are trying to be patient with them and we have to be patient because we are in a contract with them for a year, but right now not too many people are happy,” the worker said.

The worker added that of about 60 J Street workers, only 10 or 15 moved to catering. The remaining dining workers were placed in Smithsonian museums, where Restaurant Associates has contracts.

“Eventually I’m going to have to find another job. I’m trying to hang in there,” the worker said. “It didn’t only affect me, it affected all of us. About 60 something employees were down there working.”

PSU organized a march of more than 60 students through campus last March to Rice Hall’s administrative offices, where they delivered a petition of over 1,900 signatures demanding J Street workers retain their jobs during the transition from Sodexo to Restaurant Associates.

And in May PSU organized a 33-hour-long hunger strike in Kogan Plaza — one minute for each petition signature.

Alicia Knight, the senior associate vice president for operations, told PSU at the time that J Street workers would not be relocated to District House because the individual food vendors are independent from the campus dining system.

PSU Treasurer Alexa Zogopoulos said while the student group continues to push for answers on the dining workers’ employment, they are struggling to get responses.

“Back in April there was a definite sense that in late July or early August we will have these answers, we will have set numbers,” Zogopoulos said. “But that date essentially keeps getting pushed back.”

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.