Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

Op-ed: GW, remember that dining employees are people

Kei Pritsker is a member of Fair Jobs GW.

GW recently announced that University dining will transition from Sodexo, our current dining service provider, to Restaurant Associates. Officials have also announced that GW will do away with Dining Dollars, open new dining venues in District House and refurbish Shenkman Hall’s dining area.

More importantly, officials claimed that they will “help current Sodexo hourly associates” through the transition and that “Restaurant Associates estimates a reduction in fewer than 10 staff” members.

Instead of trying to placate the community, officials should listen to the 2,000 students who have signed the Fair Jobs GW petition, which demands a contract that guarantees a secure future for all dining workers.

First, dining staff should not be referred to as “Sodexo hourly associates” because it makes them seem like they aren’t connected to campus. Hourly associates wouldn’t spend decades maintaining and building a sense of community here. Many of these workers have been here longer than Sodexo has been in partnership with GW. To refer them as “Sodexo hourly associates” is an insult to the tremendous positive impact they have on the lives of students. They are members of the GW community.

These “hourly associates” include Armecia, who has committed nearly half a century to J Street and has just purchased her first home. They include Rosie, who has committed 55 years to GW and talks about GW students like she talks about her grandchildren. They include Barbara, who got teary eyed when students sang “Happy Birthday” to her. They include Valerie, or “Big Mama,” who has worked at GW for 14 years and wants to work here until retirement.

GW has previously insinuated that the fate of workers lies with contractors like Sodexo, but their recent announcement suggests otherwise. Officials have said that the Division of Operations will “work” with Restaurant Associates to help the workers transition. While the language is vague, it’s unreasonable to believe that the contractors slammed their demands on GW’s table without thoroughly negotiating first.

Additionally, we had little information about these negotiations before finding out that a deal had been struck. Therefore, GW proved that it went through these negotiations with little to no community input. The University’s statement announcing the change reflects that lack of community input. It’s hollow, and demonstrates no understanding of the integral role the workers play in our community.

Only students can attest to the impact Angie’s smile makes during finals. Only students know how good it feels when they’re thousands of miles away from home, stressed from classes and internships and Rosie calls them “sweetie.” At a time when our school’s Mental Health Services are in the spotlight, severing deep personal ties between workers and students would be counterintuitive. If officials understood these bonds, they wouldn’t even consider putting workers’ livelihoods on the bargaining table.

Restaurant Associates’ ambiguous agreement to “provide support to any employees who are not rehired” is not a proper commitment. Kind words will not make these cuts any less devastating for workers and students.

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