Sodexo workers explain grievances to Student Government: Employees reiterate concerns regarding pay and unsafe working conditions

by   Posted on May 3rd, 2010 in Uncategorized

By Ethan Vaughan, Asst. News Editor

Four Sodexo workers, accompanied by Service Employees International Union organizers and about 10 student supporters, appeared at a Student Government Senate meeting Thursday to further express objections regarding dining services, repeating assertions that management has engaged in “intimidation and discrimination.”

The student lawmakers heard testimonies from Southside employees Angelica Hernandez, Francisca Gomez and Elizabet Blas Falcon. Union organizer Amaya Henry translated their remarks from Spanish, which focused on payment and injuries sustained on the job.

Addressing a room of about 40 to 50 students, Falcon said that she was denied immediate medical attention following a grease burn.

“You can get hurt and they won’t call an ambulance,” Falcon told Student Media after speaking to the Student Senate.

“After an hour and a half of being interrogated by a supervisor, I was finally taken to the hospital. I was treated like an animal.”

Falcon was not the only one alleging misconduct. Two workers, Gomez and Angelica Hernandez, additionally told Student Media that Sodexo offered inadequate pay and sometimes reduced pay without providing explanation.

“I’ve been working here for 24 years,” said Gomez. “My problem is that I was making $11.67 [per hour], and after a review my pay was reduced to $11.32 [per hour]. They didn’t say why, and I want them to explain.”

Some Student Government members were skeptical of the statements made by workers.

“These claims are ridiculous,” said Alex Romano, a member of the Administrative Subcommittee on Dining Services that earlier this month issued a strong statement in support of Mason Dining’s management. “I’m confident they’re not true. I think [the workers] are being unfairly targeted by SEIU. SEIU promises higher pay, but that’s not in writing.

How can they guarantee that?”

Sodexo Resident District Manager Denise Ammaccapane expressed confusion at the accusations in a phone interview with Student Media after the meeting.

“Everyone has a right to come to me and no one has come to me at all,” she said. “We also have a 24-hour hotline and callers can be anonymous. Why wouldn’t they come to me?”

Newly-inaugurated Student Government President D’Leon Barnett showed interest in the issue, saying resolving the matter would be a priority.

“We need to sit down with both Sodexo workers and [management] to come to common ground,” Barnett said. “I know through my experience with Denise Ammaccapane that [Sodexo managers] want to provide fair opportunity for all employees, but the concerns that workers have are raising a lot of eyebrows, including in Student Government.”

Barnett’s position stands in contrast to the views expressed in the dining committee’s letter, the only prior Student Government action regarding the unionization efforts. However, he denied distancing himself from the outgoing government’s policies.

“I can’t speak on the past or on what’s written,” he said. “To get to the truth, we need to have a panel with both sides.

Then we can better help, and we can all be happy campers.”

As of press time, no unfair labor practices appear to have been filed with the National Labor Relations Board against the Sodexo account at Mason.

A petition has not been sent to the NLRB for a federally-supervised secret ballot election.

For more information visit www.connect2mason. com

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