For immediate release
September 30, 2004
New York, NY— The 117 food service workers employed by Sodexho Inc. at Merrill Lynch facilities in Manhattan achieved union recognition this week via the card-check process. More than 100 of the workers signed union authorization cards following a 10 month organizing campaign.
Under the card-check method, workers sign cards indicating their support for the union and the employer agrees to recognize the results if a majority indicate support. The card-check method is an increasingly common way of resolving the question of union representation since it avoids the contentiousness and delays that result from National Labor Relations Board administered elections. In the outsourced food service industry, the card-check method is often favored because it minimizes disruptions to clients like Merrill Lynch while allowing workers to decide, without employer interference, whether or not they want union representation.
“I’m very happy,”said Hilario Taveras, a catering worker at Sodexho for 16 years. “I’m looking forward to a better future for myself and my family. Many thanks to Merrill Lynch.”
The workers victory was all the more remarkable given the track record of their employer.
Sodexho, a global food service giant with $12 billion in annual revenues, has a record of harassing, intimidating and firing workers who try to organize unions. In April 2003, more than 200 Sodexho workers at an industrial laundry in Phoenix, Arizona tried to unite to improve low wages and dangerous working conditions. Sodexho illegally fired three of them, disciplined two others and committed “pervasive” illegal actions according to an administrative law judge with the National Labor Relations Board.
More recently, another NLRB judge ruled that Sodexho had violated federal labor law at Plattsburgh State University by interfering with and threatening food service workers who were working to form a union.
Despite this, the Sodexho workers at Merrill Lynch were able to prevail because of strong community support and because Merrill Lynch officials respected their choice.
“We are encouraged that Merrill Lynch was sensitive enough to hear the needs of the Sodexho workers, and respond to see that the right thing was done,” said Fr. Kevin V. Madigan, the Pastor of St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Church in lower Manhattan, just blocks from the Merrill Lynch facilities at World Financial Center.
“This shows there are Sodexho clients out there who will listen to and respect workers’ wishes,” said UNITE HERE Local 100 organizer Rosslyn Wuchinich. “We think Sodexho’s record of harassment and intimidation puts clients in an awkward position. Most clients wouldn’t tolerate that type of behavior in their facilities.”
Across North America, thousands of Sodexho workers are working with UNITE HERE and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to win organizing rights and improve their company.