Stony Brook’s food service provider Sodexo and the workers’ union Local 1102 RWDSU will be entering an emergency contract negotiation on Sept. 28 in a final attempt to come to an agreement before the end of the month.
“All this has major implications on the service of students,” said Local 1102 RWDSU Executive Vice President Ryan Brunet. “There is a direct correlation between happy students and happy workers. It’s going to unfortunately reflect in their service.”
The two groups met on Sept. 15. at the Student Activities Center, where Sodexo withdrew its demands to move all campus dining employees from union health insurance to Sodexo insurance.
Brunet said the premiums and deductibles associated with Sodexo insurance would be too high for many employees to afford on $12.74 per hour wages.
“When you do the math and calculate it, the workers would actually have to write their employer a check because they’re not earning enough in paychecks to pay for the medical plan they’re proposing,” he said.
In the current medical system, the provider — in this case Sodexo — gives monthly payments to the Local 1102 Health Fund, which provides employees with health care. The current monthly rate per employee is $871.
Although Sodexo is no longer demanding a system change, the food service company is still pushing for lower medical rates. The union was told that they are looking to lower healthcare contributions by $500,000.
Sodexo is also seeking 401(k) changes to increase the number of hours per week employees must work to earn retirement benefits. The current number is 20 hours per week, but Sodexo is aiming to increase this number to 30. The union’s concern is that Sodexo would give employees fewer shifts in order to keep them under 30 hours.
This is not the first labor dispute Sodexo has been involved with. In March, the food workers union, United Public Service Employees Union 1222, at Binghamton University sought higher wages for employees. At that time, full-time minimum wage employees made $12,000 a year, the Binghamton Review reported. Sodexo and UPSEU 1222 eventually came to an agreement that included hourly wage increases and shift differentials, the Binghampton University Pipe Dream reported.
According to the Sodexo website, the company brings in over $9 billion in revenue in the United States alone. More than 130,000 employees work at 9,000 sites across the country.
“At Sodexo our employees are our most valued resource,” said Deb McMahon, director of operations support at Sodexo. “As such, Sodexo continues to negotiate in good faith with Local 1102 and we are confident that through the process we can reach a fair and agreeable solution for all parties involved.”
Local 1102 is also pushing for a 3.5 percent pay raise in each year of the three year contract. Currently, Sodexo is willing to offer a 1.5 percent increase per year.
These contract negotiations come in the wake of student outcry in protest of the many changes Sodexo has made to the campus dining system at Stony Brook. When students came to campus this semester, many dining halls had become all-you-care-to-eat dine-in locations as opposed to the retail system used in previous years. Students were quick to notice the changes in portion size and food quality.
The Faculty Student Association, the entity in charge of Campus Dining at Stony Brook, is hopeful the negotiations will come to an end before the Sept. 30 deadline.
“FSA is interested in the outcome of these contract negotiations as they directly impact the student meal plan delivery system,” FSA Marketing and Communications Director Angela Agnello said. “To that end, Sodexo has assured FSA that contract negotiations are ongoing and terms are amicable.”
The union is holding membership meetings on Sept. 29 and 30 for the some 200 employees represented by the contract. If they are able to come to an agreement at the final negotiation, the members will be asked to ratify the contract. If Sodexo and Local 1102 leave on the 28th without compromising, members will vote on a possible strike for October.