Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

The Hilltop

CAMPUS

Howard dining workers allege ‘toxic,’ ‘unsafe’ working conditions under Sodexo management

Following a picket staged in front of Armour J. Blackburn University Center last week, Howard’s Sodexo staff said their working conditions need improvement.

Howard Students and Local 23 union members holding up flyers to protest cafeteria worker’s conditions. (Joy Young/The Hilltop)

The chants of protesters could be heard throughout the Yard this month, as Howard dining staff employees, students and the Union Local 23 members convened to protest cafeteria working conditions and Sodexo’s alleged breach of contract. 

The ongoing concerns have prompted some dining staff to question Sodexo management at Howard. Last October, Howard dining employees renegotiated their contract with their employer, Sodexo, after weeks of advocating for higher wages and extra sick days, among other benefits.

Now, these employees say they are concerned that Sodexo hasn’t delivered on the terms of the contract, and is instead retaliating against those who speak out, according to some Howard dining staff. 

The Hilltop reached out repeatedly to Howard Sodexo general manager Aisha Brown, marketing manager Chaheed Campbell and human resources manager Nicole Henderson, all of whom declined to comment. 

A Bethune Annex cafeteria worker, Henry Davis, commented on what he believes to be a lack of changes that have been made since the contract signing in October, including changes to raises and sick days. He believes that some of his Sodexo coworkers who have spoken out about the issue have been fired for illegitimate reasons. “It feels a bit targeted,” he said. 

Some other dining workers from other cafes have shared similar experiences of what they said to be unfair termination, mistreatment and poor allocation of resources.

Hollis Coates, a Bethune Annex cafeteria worker for roughly 12 years said Pierre Carter, who Coates said was wrongly accused of misconduct by Sodexo management, is not the only coworker of hers who has faced termination. 

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

“I’m not going to use her name because they’re still bothering her,” Coates said. “But when you want to get rid of somebody who is fraternizing with the union, what do you do? You fire them.” 

Howard Students and Local 23 union members holding up flyers to protest cafeteria worker’s conditions. (Sariah Adams/The Hilltop)

Gisele Spooner works in the Halal Shack Punchout, an eating place located on the lower level of Armour J. Blackburn University Center. She also voiced concerns about Halal Shack’s working conditions, mostly regarding what she believes to be out-of-date and unsanitary equipment. 

“I believe it’s disrespectful to the students and the safety of the workers in general,” Spooner said. She also addressed her concerns with management in general. 

“Managers do not respect our time or our energy,” she said. “We would like to pressure Sodexo on behalf of the union and for the workers who have been done a disservice.” 

The National Union Local 23 and the DMV Students for Socialism organization spearheaded the picket on Wednesday, Feb. 9, to bring attention to the termination of Carter. 

A current manager at Sodexo, who preferred to remain anonymous out of fear of termination, described the working conditions as “toxic” and “unsafe” generated by the doing of certain managers. 

“Unrealistic goals have been set. It has affected my mental health,” they said. The manager said they witnessed substantial turnover among Sodexo managers, staff and frontline workers.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

The manager also said that they and other managers were instructed to “find ways to get rid of certain union employees that go outside of the scope of work that [they] do,” in an effort, the manager described, to rid the workplace of those who spoke up about working conditions. 

“I feel like it’s important to stand up for people and want to see change,” they said. “I’m here working internally to make the change. It’s a company I still believe in.” 

Students also expressed their support for the Howard workers in the picket line.  

Anna Wiggins, a freshman double criminology and sociology major from Indianapolis, Indiana,  says that the picking was not surprising to her. “Even before I got to Howard, I heard that the school is constantly protesting and pushing for things to get better,” she said. “I’m super grateful to see people fighting for Mr. P and other cafeteria workers who are being unjustly treated.” 

Logan Richberg, a sophomore honors sociology major from New Jersey, echoed Wiggins’s sentiments. “They’re some of the most hardworking people at this school and they don’t reap the benefits that are supposed to come from this job, especially people who have been working here ten years, twenty years.” 

Copy edited by Alana Matthew

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.
Advertisement

You May Also Like

CAMPUS

Howard University School of Medicine, in part through Skin Scholars, teamed up with skincare companies to promote dermatology awareness and mentorship.

CAMPUS

A Howard University faculty member crashed their car into the guardrail at Cook Hall, injuring a student and hospitalizing them.

NEWS

Attendees rallied at the historic Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church to gather support for Haiti.

NEWS

Black Americans face ongoing voter suppression despite long-standing voting rights, prompting discussions on race-based voting obstacles and historical parallels.