by Natalie Dest
After several months of protests and petitions, Sodexo employees at Central Connecticut State University have finally gathered enough support from faculty and students to be given a settled contract for health care after their year and a half long fight.
Central Sodexo workers, who are also members of Unite Here Local 217, have been battling against Quality Services of Life since April 2017 in negotiations against the $3.50 per hour cut from their pay for health insurance.
Because of this, an on-campus rally was held on Sept. 26 which focused on their need for standard wages, in addition for paid time off, with an emphasis on affordable healthcare. Surrounding Connecticut colleges, who are also a part of the Union, supported CCSU Sodexo employees in holding a boycott against the university.
Only a short month later, more than 46 Sodexo workers called out of work for campus dining halls referring to it as an “unexpected Work Action by our [Sodexo’s] Dining Service Workers,” on Nov. 5.
As of now, The Recorder has reached out and received no comment regarding the new contract and what it will entail for the company’s future.
Some employees of Sodexo were unable to provide commentary, as it was stated that they must speak to the “Union Coordinator” before giving a statement.
Louise Williams, president of the faculty union at CCSU, along with other Sodexo employees, reached out to the rest of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) for solidarity in a rally that was planning to ask President Dr. Zulma Toro for help in settling a contract that preserved their health insurance.
Before the rally took place, Williams, AAUP and Unite Here workers at Central held a meeting with Toro explaining the problems at hand and support for the rally.
“We had a meeting on Nov. 17. where Toro said she was committed to doing all that she could so that all members of the CCSU and New Britain community were treated fairly, regardless of whether they were employed by the university,” Williams said.
AAUP representatives who attended two other meetings with Toro and Sodexo members early January of this year also contacted New Britain state legislators Bobby Sanchez and Peter Teriyaki for help in encouraging Sodexo to settle.
“The union solidarity between the AAUP faulty union and Unite Here food service workers union helped a great deal,” Williams said.
Central students who have been following the union’s fight also have noticed both their persistence and progress from the beginning, up until their finally settled contracts.
“It seems that their protests really helped CCSU Sodexo workers have a voice. If it wasn’t for them boycotting the school and the constant help from the faculty, I don’t think they would have made such an impact on finally getting the contract they deserve,” CCSU student Erica Kula said. “They [Central Sodexo Workers] definitely have stayed strong throughout this fight.”
However, Toro’s consistent support in following the Union and supporting their demands against Sodexo aided in encouraging settled contracts.
“I think Dr. Toro played the most important role and the Sodexo workers do appreciate everything she has done to make sure that CCSU is a community that is well treated,” Williams said.
Samantha Cendeno, a CCSU Sodexo worker who was actively a part of the fight and included in the Union, was questioned about her final thoughts regarding the outcome of their settled contracts, but stated that they [Sodexo workers] “cannot comment on that at this time.”
Through the support of students, faculty and members of Unite Here Local 217, CCSU Sodexo workers have finally been given a contract that is fair and satisfies their over year-long fight. With fair pay and insured health care, the coverage that Central food service workers have been aiming for has eventually been granted to them by Quality Services of Life.