For immediate release
August 15, 2013
Federal contractor accused of threatening to fire cafeteria workers, including inside Department of Labor, for picketing
August 15, Washington, DC: The union representing workers at cafeterias in several Washington, DC federal buildings has filed a charge against their employer, FAME Food Management, alleging that workers were threatened with surveillance and discipline, including firing, if they attended a July 25 picket line outside one of the buildings.
The workers are represented by UNITE HERE Local 23, which filed the Unfair Labor Practice charge. Union members employed by FAME work in the cafeterias in the US Department of Labor, the US Bureau of Engraving and Printing, and the Government Printing Office. Workers at all three locations reported that they were threatened.
Talila Hunde, an Ethiopian immigrant who received political asylum in the US, and is a father of two, works at the DOL cafeteria. He reports that when he started to work there about a year ago, his manager would, "yell at me all the time. Anytime I made a mistake he would scream, "I am going to fire you.’" According to Hunde, he was told that he would be fired by the company if he attended the picket line. "No one," he says, "should be yelled at or threatened like this."
The workers are in negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement with FAME. On July 25, workers called attention to the lack of progress in negotiations and the high cost of health insurance. Hunde, for example, earns $426 a week–before taxes– for working 40 hours. His take-home pay after federal and state deductions is about $350 a week. The cost to workers for the company’s family health insurance at the DOL is $146 per week.
"It is outrageous," said Emilio Abate, Local 23’s Chapter President, "that the US Government does business with a company that apparently threatens workers for union activity. The General Services Administration [which does the food contracting for the DOL and the GPO] needs to take action here."
An Unfair Labor Practice charge was filed with the National Labor Relations Board on August 2.