Student group to Merten: 'Kick out Sodexo'
Video: C2M was notified of the GMU Students for Workers Rights' activities and on site to document the event. (George Yanez)
UPDATED 8:46 a.m.
A new George Mason University student organization says it backs campus dining workers who have protested conditions and wages of Sodexo. Carrying over unionization efforts from last spring, the group hand-delivered a message of protest on Thursday calling on President Alan Merten to remove the corporation as the university’s dining services provider.
Merten was not in, so the message was received by presidential operations manager Sharon Cullen, who had no comment.
The GMU Students for Workers' Rights waved signs, placards, and wore stickers proclaiming “No justice / No pizza,” “Our Workers Deserve Fair Wages,” and “Shame on Sodexo”. Most of the 15 students, backed up by five workers, were also involved in other campus organizations, including the College Democrats, who backed the workers in a formal letter written at the time of the protests last April.
Six organizations co-signed the "letter of demands" delivered to Merten's office: GMU College Democrats, the GMU Lebanese Students Association, GMU Students Against World Hunger, Corazones Unidos Siempre Chi Upsilon Sigma La Unidad Latina, National Latin Sorority Inc. Lambda Upsilon Lambda Fraternity, Inc. and the GMU Environmental Action Group.
Dining services management have denied workers’ claims. Assistant Controller Charles Olson said he personally receives an hourly wage and said Sodexo wages and benefits are very competitive and higher than the median for the region. He also said many injuries occur because proper procedure is not followed, and then “we get made out to be the bad guys.”
Accusations and counter-accusations have flown between workers and management. Bill Fry, a Sodexo retail chief, claimed the Service Employees International Union is coaching workers. Students for Workers' Rights member Jason Von Kundra, answering another Sodexo manager’s concerns about the Service Employees International Union, said that he represents a student group that is not affiliated with the union, though they do support worker’s rights to unionize.
The SEIU, however, has made calls to the College Democrats in order to alert them to the union and worker's efforts and when Von Kundra was asked if the SEIU has called or nudged them to act, he made no comment.
Dining workers will also share their stories to the public at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 9, in the Johnson Center Cinema, according to a release from Von Kundra.