Herzberger comments on Sodexo conflict

Erika E. Perez's picture

Erika E. Perez, issue 16, News - By Erika E. Perez on Thursday, February 3, 2011 - 04:31

While workers’ efforts to improve treatment from their employer, the Sodexo company, came to light about a year ago, the workers feel the administration has failed to address their issues. “Replacing this company for one that wants [worker] unions is the only way we are going to get a better salary, treatment and not excessive work,” worker Estela Sanchez said.

The workers have previously met with President Sharon Herzberger to gain support, but have been unsuccessful. “First, I am quite supportive of employees’ working with their supervisors to improve working conditions,” Herzberger said through an e-mail response. “The disputes need to be settled between the employees of Sodexo and Sodexo itself, and we should not interfere.”

In addition, Herzberger expressed an uncertainty about whether the institution’s participation is necessary. “Some members of the housekeeping staff have told me that they are unhappy, while others tell me that they are quite happy and satisfied, believing that they are treated well,” Herzberger said.

The workers, such as Sanchez, were disappointed with the administration’s failure to respond to their problems. “We expected for her [Herzberger] to do something for us and for her to help us more, but right now we have not really had any answers,” Sanchez said.

Union leader Ankush Dhupar, who has been helping the workers, was also expecting intervention from the college. “Whittier College has so far failed and refused to take any responsibility for the conditions of these workers who service the college everyday,” Dhupar said.  “Rather than engage in a responsible dialogue with the workers who clean the college, Whittier has chosen to hide behind their use of a sub-contractor as an excuse for not getting involved.”

Some students have also expressed their expectations of Whittier to step in. “I think the involvement of Whittier in the issue is low and should be higher,” sophomore Briana Johnson said. “I expect and want the administration to step up and help out the workers.”
Although workers around the United States and internationally continue efforts to voice their needs, there are still some that feel unprepared to form an opinion, much less act on the matter.

“I feel like I don’t know the situation well enough to speak much on it, but it’s important that Whittier raises social awareness on the issue so that a fair resolution can be resolved,” sophomore Mohamed Faal said.

Recent efforts to inform others of the situation in the Whittier College community include a one-day strike on Oct. 11, 2010.

In addition, strikes in LA County, statewide in Louisiana, Virginia, Atlanta, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois and even internationally in Colombia and England have taken place.
“Sodexo workers have gone on strike to protest the alleged unfair and illegal attempts to dissuade them from forming a union and to raise themselves out of poverty,” Dhupar said.
“Sodexo has not agreed to improve any of the workers’ pay, benefits or conditions.”

Dhupar and student leaders plan to further increase awareness of the issue and continue to suggest ways in which the college’s administration can influence the effectiveness of the workers’ actions against Sodexo’s management.