Long ago I made a category for ‘Aramark’ a huge company that is gradually taking over food services in schools, colleges and institutions around the US. I never did pursue it much and then I saw this story in In These Times (a socialist publication):
Aramark is one of those companies pushing for more immigrant labor. Here is the only post I’ve written on it so far. I suspect they aren’t pleased with the unionizing that is going on.
Note that the immigrant workers initially resisted unionization.
Issues like these (described in opening paragraph) are why the 204 workers from 16 countries decided to form a union. After a difficult organizing campaign where they initially faced intense opposition from their employer, Aramark, on Nov. 16 the company agreed to recognize UNITE HERE Local 1 after 80 percent of workers signed union cards.
Aramark is strictly about the company making money, they’re a multi-billion dollar corporation, they don’t care how we survive or that we are living pay day to pay day,” Irving said [Grill cook Janet Irving].
Irving said workers tried to unionize several years ago but the effort was squashed by intimidation before it got off the ground. This time, she said, the key was keeping organizing secret until they had gained a critical mass. Loyola students and professors and Chicago interfaith and community groups also supported the workers, including at several public rallies.
“Without them we wouldn’t have made it,” said Irving, adding that continued support will be important as they negotiate their first contract. “Students, priests, the neighborhood, teachers – everybody stood behind us.”
The unionizing drive was especially challenging because of the diversity of the workforce, including refugees and immigrants from Bosnia, Mexico, China and several African countries. Some of them had negative impressions of unions or heightened fears about repression because of situations in their own countries.
“Half of them were really scared, or didn’t really understand what a union is all about,” said Irving. “It was a little difficult, but we made it.”
DePaul University was involved too and the Social Justice crowd played a key role.
Both Loyola and DePaul are Catholic universities where social justice is held up as a core value. This provided leverage for students, cafeteria employees and supporters demanding the universities live up to their own values in how workers are treated. DePaul students have been carrying out a living wage campaign that included the delivery of a petition with 1,500 signatures to the university president last semester.
A deadly combination—-large multinational corporations looking for immigrant labor, the religious Left, and unions looking for socialist voting power.