Aramark food service workers at WKU have made public their intention to unionize with the National Fire and Tanker Conference, SEIU 32BJ.
“People haven’t had their union recognized yet, but we’re demanding recognition,” said Alexis Hardesty, NCFO-SEIU director of organizing and policy.
The goal is for the union to be recognized by Aramark. Once this happens, workers will meet with WKU’s catering and catering service provider to develop a list of things employees want to see improved in the workplace. If that doesn’t happen, Hardesty said the next step would be to hold an election to receive recognition.
“Right now, we’ve just made our committee public, so that’s the first step,” Hardesty said. “We continue to have conversations with people about the changes they want to see in their workplace. We would like Aramark to agree to recognize us and meet us, but if we have to go to an election, yes, we will.
Restaurant group WKU was contacted for comment but did not respond before press time. The story will be updated with their statement when it becomes available.
WKU and Aramark have agreed to a 20-year contract in 2017. At the time, Brian Kuster, former vice president of sstudent affairssaid the contract was to be worth “approximately $20 million per year and will result in a significant reinvestment in catering and catering services at WKU.”
According to Hardesty, the push for a union started in the fall but gained momentum this spring. Carly Williamson, who has worked at Downing Student Union’s Starbucks site since fall 2020, passed on the message to colleagues and customers.
“So the union process is looking for a majority in restaurants, and so that’s not necessarily all workers right now, but that’s something we’re looking to do,” Williamson said. “So right now what we’re doing is we’re talking to the workers – we’re saying ‘hey, is this something we’re interested in?’ We’re pretty close to a majority from what I understand it looked really good last time I looked at the numbers It’s Steak n’ Shake including The Spread, Hilltopper Hub, every restaurant on campus, I think, except food trucks.
Williamson stressed that the union push was not due to the actions of customers. She says issues such as a lack of mental health resources, failure to enforce proper COVID-19 protocol, and staffing issues have kept Williamson and her colleagues from enjoying their work.
“It’s not that we don’t want to serve you,” Williamson said. “Every Restaurant Group employee I’ve spoken to has told me how much they love their jobs, how much they love the students, and how much their favorite part of the job is customer service.”
According to Williamson, the union pressure is aimed at recognizing the work that Aramark employees at WKU have provided to students, faculty and staff.
“At the end of the day, we’re the ones generating the money for the university,” Williamson said. “If we’re not there, they won’t have anything. I don’t care what marketing campaigns they do, I don’t care how good the drinks taste, if I’m not there, if the Fresh people aren’t there, if Burrito Bowl isn’t there, then they don’t ‘get nothing. They get all their money from our work and that’s where it’s at – we’re on the line. We are the ones who have to do the work in the end. »
Content Editor Jake Moore can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Charles_JMoore.