Sodexo, union reach agreement

By Michael Macagnone

On-campus food service provider Sodexo reached an agreement with the local union representing… On-campus food service provider Sodexo reached an agreement with the local union representing some of its workers, and a federal investigation into the company’s labor practices has ended, a federal official said.

Mark Wirick, acting regional director of the National Labor Relations Board’s Pittsburgh office, said Sodexo reached an agreement Tuesday with members of the Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ, which represents about 200 workers on Pitt’s campus.

The union brought allegations to the board on behalf of Sodexo’s nonunionized workers in March. They made an official complaint that Sodexo employees made coercive statements, including threats, and interrogated its workers.

Wirick said he could not release the terms of the settlement, but that details of the agreement would be distributed to Sodexo and posted at the workplace shortly.

“I’m not going to guarantee this week,” Wirick said. “But it will be soon.”

He said that the matter was largely settled, at least from the board’s end, and now it’s a matter of circulating paperwork.

The National Labor Relations Board, a federal group that regulates and investigates labor issues, has been investigating the case against the food services provider.

Sodexo spokesman Alfred King said in an e-mail that the NLRB investigation did not make any “findings of fact” on behalf of the nonunionized workers.

“We believe that our conduct was lawful,” he said. “We chose to resolve this matter since we now have reached a new three-year agreement with Sodexo’s unionized employees at the University of Pittsburgh.”

Sodexo and the SEIU finalized a three-year contract last week. It included a minimum $1.40 pay raise over the length of the contract, and Sodexo will now pay up to 90 percent of workers’ health care premiums.

King said that Sodexo had a policy concerning harassment of or retaliation against its employees.

“Sodexo has a zero-tolerance policy concerning discrimination, harassment or retaliation of any kind, including actions against any employee for engaging in union-organizing activities or otherwise supporting a union,” King said.

In complying with the settlement, he also said that the company will “notify affected Sodexo hourly employees at the University of Pittsburgh of their federally protected rights to unionize or not, and of specific commitments that its management team is making to respect those rights.”

SEIU representatives were not immediately available to comment about the settlement.

Before the settlement was reached, SEIU spokesman Matt Painter said that the SEIU would “keep standing with nonunionized workers on campus.”

Since the start of freshmen orientation, SEIU members have passed around fliers on campus that read, “What’s wrong with Sodexo?”

The fliers said that the union planned to continue pursuing its labor-rights cause with Sodexo.

Throughout the spring semester, the SEIU organized various protests on campus, including one in Market Central over Sodexo’s labor practices.

The Service Employees International Union is an organization that represents more than 2 million employees in North America. SEIU Local 32BJ represents more than 5,000 workers in western Pennsylvania, according to its website.

About 150 Sodexo employees on campus are not represented by the SEIU.