Students & Workers in Solidarity

Building student and worker power at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.


SWS: Who We Are, And What You Can Do

Posted by Students and Workers in Solidarity on March 18, 2015 at 12:45 AM

SWS recently put up some signs around campus to draw attention to the situation surrounding food service at Emory. But signs can only communicate so much, and we want to clarify the broader context: what is Students and Workers on Solidarity, and why are we interested in starting a conversation about Sodexo?

Students and Workers in Solidarity’s goal is to positively influence discussions about labor policy and income inequality on campus. Over the next few months, Emory will choose whether to renew its food service contract with Sodexo, and decide on what details to include in the final contract. Emory’s decision is a critical test of our campus’ commitment to ethical leadership and will have serious material consequences for Emory’s food service workers. We have two straightforward goals:

First, Emory should not renew its food service contract with Sodexo. Sodexo has been singled out in multiple human rights reports, operates several private prisons, and has been" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">documented in the" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">Emory Wheel as carrying out anti-worker policies on our campus. In response to Sodexo’s business practices, students around the country have mobilized against their university’s food service contracts - including at Emory in 2010-11 - and several universities have chosen to sever their contract with Sodexo as a result. Bon Appetit, the other finalist for the contract, is not implicated by these concerns.

Second, the next food service contract should include strong protections for workers. In 2013, in response to student protests, Emory established a Committee on Class and Labor to examine the labor situation on campus. That Committee’s recommendations, established after twenty-one months of deliberation, unequivocally support substantially stronger protections for subcontracted workers. The report found that there were “significant gaps in wages [and benefits] between Emory and non-Emory workers on campus,” and extensively documented the inequalities and challenges facing subcontracted employees. The report concludes with several pages of concrete and implementable recommendations for future contracts. So far, Emory has not provided any indication that they intend to follow through with these recommendations, and our demand is simple: we think Emory should follow the guidelines that, just two years ago, they themselves established.

SWS has further outlined its position in the Emory Wheel and in a letter to Emory administrator Eric Bymaster.

Here are two ways you can get involved with the food service discussion at Emory. On Tuesday, March 17 at 8:30pm, we’ll have a planning meeting in DUC231E. On Monday, March 23rd, we’re sponsoring a public discussion on the food service contract from 6-8pm in Winship Ballroom. Although we have our own perspective on the issue, we strongly believe that the entire Emory community should have the opportunity to publicly discuss the issue and reach their own conclusions. Our decision to sponsor a discussion stems from Emory’s lack of initiative in encouraging public deliberation on food service, and the discussion’s moderator is unaffiliated with SWS. We encourage everyone to attend the discussion to learn more about the issue and have an opportunity to express their perspective.

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