February 7, 2006, [MD]
I first became aware of the process of unionizing the workers at SODEXHO during a meeting, where we were shown the excellent movie “Occupation” about students staging a sit-in at Harvard university - the second wealthiest non-profit in the world, after the Vatican - to fight for living wages for the university staff. They also told us about SODEXHO - a French multinational which runs catering businesses in many countries, and even used to operate prisons in the US (but had to divest themselves of that investment, because of student protest). They run most of the food operations at St. George, UofT’s downtown campus, including the Robart’s library canteen. Apparently, the staff was paid incredibly low wages (chefs with 15 years ansiennity would be paid 8\$/hr), and they were also harassed and discriminated against regularly.
I was briefly involved in a campaign to support the workers in their drive to unionize, but never participated much. Today I saw the news in the canteen that the workers approved unionization, and a contract, with 98% of the votes in favor. This is great news, and I am very happy for the workers! I also thank all the students, faculty and outside supporters who contributed to this process.
Lately, I also read a book called “Underground Woman” about a woman who worked for the Transit Authority on the New York subways for four years, while doing her graduate work. She subsequently became a sociologist, and wrote a (not too academic) account of her work, focusing on being a woman, but more in general on harassment by riders, perceptions of management, and a horrible union that didn’t help anyone.
StianStian Håklev February 7, 2006 Toronto, Canada comments powered by Disqus