Employees hope to unionize

Aramark employees continue to spread awareness of work-related concerns.

On Nov. 14, a small rally took place at Butler University’s Star Fountain.

Its purpose: to give Butler students and faculty the opportunity to show support for the school’s Aramark workers.

The display made many around the Butler community aware of the workers’ attempt to unionize.

While Aramark has not yet recognized this union, the push toward improved compensation and work environment is underway for Butler’s Aramark workers.

“We’re trying to fight, not just for us but for our other co-workers,” Aramark employee Rebecca Bradley said. “I want the best for them.”

Bradley is a 27-year veteran of Aramark and currently serves as a grill cook in Atherton Union.

She and Tanya Gray, a 22-year Aramark employee who works in the Residential College cafeteria, were part of an organizing committee that began discussing the possibility of unionization nearly a year ago.

The committee of 15 Butler Aramark employees began talking to Unite Here, a group that represents American and Canadian workers who attempt to unionize.

“It was a few of us, but it didn’t take long to get (more people),” Bradley said.

This negotiating eventually led to a petition, which was signed by approximately 90 percent of Butler’s Aramark workers, said Stuart Mora, a Unite Here representative.

Workers were requesting a card-check neutrality agreement through the petition.

With the neutrality agreement, workers are not asking for union recognition at Butler but a fair process where they will be able to organize themselves and negotiate a contract with Aramark.

According to the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s website, a neutrality agreement is “a contract between a union and an employer under which the employer agrees to support a union’s attempt to organize its workforce.”

With a card-check clause in place, an employer agrees to automatically recognize a union if a specific number of union authorization cards are collected from employees. These cards take the place of a secret ballot election for union approval.

The petition was presented to Aramark management on Nov. 13.

Bradley and Gray both said they were nervous prior to workers making it publicly known that they were attempting to unionize because they had heard stories of workers being fired from other companies in such situations.

However, they said they were both willing to take the risk.

“It’s truly time for a change,” Gray said. “You’re not getting any younger.”

One of the tilting points for Aramark workers was Indiana’s decision to discontinue providing unemployment benefits to those who are deemed “seasonal workers.”

Aramark workers did not receive unemployment benefits this summer. Workers also temporarily lost their insurance benefits while students were away from campus between May and August.

Gray said she typically pays $83 every two weeks for her medical insurance thanks to Aramark’s provided insurance. However, she received a letter at the end of the last school year saying she would need to pay almost $400 per month to keep her medical insurance.

“What I thought was, ‘I don’t have a job, I don’t have any income, so how am I supposed to pay 400-something dollars a month to keep my insurance?’” Gray said. “For me, healthcare was more important to me than just about anything.”

Workers are also looking for appropriate pay for the work they do each day.

Despite working with Aramark for nearly three decades, Bradley said she makes less than $13 per hour. Gray said she makes less than $12 per hour.

Bradley said some newly-hired workers are often making close to the same amount.

After doing some research, Bradley and Gray discovered that Aramark does not provide any funding to match the money employees put into their 401k.

“I just feel they could offer us a little bit more than what they’re doing,” Gray said.

Workers have also stated a feeling of disrespect from management as one of their concerns.

Bradley struggles to earn 40 hours of work per week despite her tenure. Her shifts are often filled with nighttime hours and always include at least one day per weekend.

She said the environment for workers had not been conducive to productivity prior to the petition’s release.

“If your shirt tail is out, you’re going home,” Bradley said. “If you come in with white socks or colored socks and they see, you’re going home.”

Since the petition’s release, Bradley said managers have been “trying to kill us with kindness.”

Gray said getting Butler’s Aramark workers to come together was not difficult because “everybody has some type of issue.”

Junior Darrel McClarin has worked at Atherton’s Campus Club for two years. He said he decided to become involved in the attempt to unionize when he saw his co-workers involved.

A student-organized event in support of the workers will take place tomorrow from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Efroymson Diversity Center.

“Ultimately, I started thinking about my fellow workers and people who I think deserve better rights and better pay,” McClarin said. “I didn’t join this for me.”

Butler students and faculty have continued to support workers’ efforts past the rally at Star Fountain.

“I love (the support),” Bradley said. “It makes me feel good that the students are standing there with us.”

Mora said Aramark has been responsible and respectful to the workers’ attempts, although no legitimate discussions between the parties have taken place.

Bradley and Gray said they want to “make it clear that we do love our jobs,” but they are willing to fight for as long as it takes to improve their situation.

“We started it,” Gray said. ”There’s no use in turning back now. We’ve got to finish the fight.”

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