Hundreds of workers from across the country rallied in New York’s financial district to highlight problems workers face in the food service industry, including low wages, lack of affordable benefits, and no paid sick leave.
“Workers right here on Wall Street – serving some of the richest companies in the world – can barely feed their families,” said UNITE HERE General President Bruce Raynor. “These hardworking men and women are up before the sun preparing the food that keeps the economy moving, yet they and their struggles are invisible. They stand across the serving line from people earning million dollar bonuses, and they go without essential health care. Whether they work directly for a school district or Wall Street firm, or for one of the food service giants, it’s unconscionable and unnecessary.”
Thanks to over a decade of consolidation in the industry, more than 1 million workers worldwide are employed by a handful of multi-national service companies that have taken over "non-core" work (e.g., food service, cleaning) from many corporations, universities, and school districts.
“I work at a cafeteria in the heart of the financial district – it’s just me and 30 other workers,” explained Celia Combs, an ARAMARK worker at 55 Water Street, home to JP Morgan and other companies. “We’ve been fighting for a decent contract for more than a year. And we just found out that our health benefits have been cut off because ARAMARK won’t agree to extend them.”
The rally was an opportunity for food service workers to come together and show Wall Street the important work they do and the challenges they face.
“Now we see there are hundreds of thousands of workers just like us across the country, and we’re going to stand together to improve standards for the whole industry,” said another food service worker, Calvin Wyatt, an ARAMARK worker who serves Citigroup employees at 111 Wall Street. Citigroup’s revenue, incidentally, was a record $26.63 billion for the second quarter of 2007.
“It’s intolerable that food service workers on whom we rely to feed us and our children are struggling to provide for their families. These companies are so profitable that they can and must invest in their employees. We need to make sure that companies do not take advantage of their employees, and of taxpayers who inevitably must dig deeper in their pockets to cover the costs,” explained New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr., who was one of many leaders that turned out for the rally to show support for ensuring decent jobs for all workers in the city’s financial district.