Taking on Sodexo at Ohio State

Sam Agarwal, an activist in Columbus at Ohio State University, reports on the campaign for workers' rights against food and facilities provider Sodexo.

IN A depressed time of mass layoffs and pay cuts, workers are coming together to fight for their dignity and rights.

The state of Ohio has been a historical stomping ground for labor activity, with Cleveland being the headquarters of the Industrial Workers of the World, which organized thousands of workers in the past century. Yet in Ohio and across the U.S., some companies, such as Sodexo, still refuse workers the basic glue of worker's power: union participation.

Sodexo is a French-based food and facilities provider that employs over 100,000 workers across the U.S. With annual profits of over $1 billion, many of the overworked employees are being forced into poverty due to their pathetic wages.

The hostile work environment has been documented in a number of reports, with workers being harassed, molested and paid inconsistently. It is not surprising that Sodexo has continually refused to allow them to unionize.

At Ohio State University (OSU), Sodexo provides food services for many of the athletic facilities, such as the plethora of "mega-stadiums" seen across campus. Angered students from the group Students Against Sweatshops, in coalition with Service Employees International Union (SEIU), have gone to classrooms and other popular venues to garner support from the Buckeye community to stop this egregious injustice.

After lobbying Congress, workers and students went to the American Sodexo headquarters to deliver a petition signed by over 1,000 concerned workers. They held a rally and demanded Sodexo's attention.

When the company refused to listen to the workers, activists continued their fight with a flight--to Paris! They rallied outside the annual Sodexo shareholders meeting with a firm message: They will not give up until they have a union and will not tolerate any attempts at union-busting.

In February, students delivered a Valentine's Day card to OSU's President E. Gordon Gee, telling him to "have a heart" for workers' rights. On Tuesday, March 2, workers and students plan on attending the OSU male basketball game at 9 p.m. to extend the message to the university community and ESPN.

If the campaign continues to build worker-student solidarity with its current fervor, there is no doubt Sodexo will be forced to say "uncle".

For more information on the campaign, visit the Clean Up Sodexo Web site.