Op-Eds Opinion

Letter to the Editor: Bryan Clarke’s Case Against the Union

I am one of the employees working at Cheney Hall, and I don’t want to be represented by a union. I would like to share a few facts about unions, and how these facts might affect the students, faculty and staff, and, most importantly, the Aramark employees themselves.

If the union gets the required number of votes to unionize, an automatic pay raise is not guaranteed. The whole process to ratify the first contract can take years, and there will be no pay raise until that contract is signed by both sides. If some of the workers are already disgruntled now, imagine no raise for two years. Is it really worth it? I think not. Do you as guests want to listen to Aramark employees complaining about not having a pay raise for two years? Because they put themselves in that place without thinking first. I know I wouldn’t nor do I want to listen to it.

First and foremost of concern is a monetary one. Each union member will be required to pay an initiation fee and weekly dues to the union. The only thing that the union can guarantee now is that we will have to pay dues. Rumor has it that we will have to pay $9.10 a week in dues. If in the first year of the contract we were to all get an across-the-board raise of .25 per hour, and you were lucky enough to work 35 hours, your pay raise would equal $8.75 a week. That wouldn’t be enough to cover the cost of dues. So after two years of union membership, our pay is less than before we unionized, and we would have to wait until the next year to see any increase. And what if you only work part time? It would take even longer to see an increase in your paycheck.

As you read this, you may be asking “Why don’t you just not join the union?” Massachusetts is not a right-to-work state. What this means is that I have to join the union. I have no choice. It’s join or be fired. It’s that simple. What this really means is that my co-workers are firing me from my job!!  Do you as guests want to see some of the long-term workers fired because of someone else’s thoughtlessness and desire for a larger paycheck?

One other factor to consider is what if Aramark were to decide that it’s just too expensive and burdensome to continue, and decided not to renew their contract with Springfield College. What would happen then?  Since the contract is with the union and Aramark, not Springfield College, there would be no contract. Where would all the Cheney Hall and Student Union employees be then? Probably working for another food service company at possibly lower pay, fewer hours, or who knows what, but they would not have a union contract with Aramark.

The real major drawback to a union is the loss of individuality which will happen to all workers. I as a human being have the moral right to be as productive as I can, and to demand just payment for the value that I produce. What I can’t demand is pay for what is not earned. The payment for the value that I produce is what a union skirts. I could not in good conscience accept an increase in pay for work that I didn’t feel I produced. That should be everyone’s work ethic. Sadly, it is not that way. Everyone will get an across-the-board raise whether they earned it or not.

Unions are like cartels, or to use a harsher word, monopolies. Let me make an analogy. OPEC controls the price of oil. When the price per barrel increases the price of gasoline increases, and you the customer have to pay a higher price. So the union will demand higher wages for its members and Aramark will pass the price of higher wages on to you the consumer.

A union works much like a socialist government where the good of the collective (the union members) is the prime concern. It can’t take into account my aspirations or anyone else’s. It will always be that a majority will rule. I may not be able to work the hours I want, or the station I want, or be full-time or part-time. My fate is left in the hands of others. I have talked to other employees and they have said, “I am an individual and I can think for myself. I don’t need someone else to think for me.” What disturbs me the most is that I will have no say in a job I truly love. This one fact, in my opinion, should make everyone campus-wide sit up and take notice. Sadly, I think that most haven’t thought about this at all or even care, especially the employees who work for Aramark.

In the event of a strike, Aramark is under no obligation to hire back the striking workers. Aramark has a legal right to continue to run their business.  At best, the striking employees can hope to be recalled, and if they are called back they have no right to back pay.

How will all this affect the students and staff at Springfield College? First, there will be no more teamwork. It will be “I have my station and that is all I have to take care of.” Gone will be the days of one employee helping another employee.  I have seen the lines at Northern Kitchen or Stir Fry when another employee will jump in and help. Those days will be gone. Even the sous chefs won’t be able to help because they are excluded from joining a union. The other is there is no magic pot of money that can be used for all these assumed pay raises. The cost of any pay raises will be borne by the customer. It is that simple. The meal plans will cost more.

You might hear the term “That’s not in my job description.” It’s a term that I wish never existed because it speaks volumes about the person speaking it. The one good thing about the phrase is it gives me a better idea of what that person’s work ethic is. And lastly, here is some data about unions from the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics:

In 2012 the union membership rate stood at 11.3%.  That means 14.4 million workers were represented by unions. Of those, 35.9% or 7.3 million, worked in the public sector which is comprised of teacher, police, firefighters, and other workers who work for the public good. In the private sector, which includes Aramark employees, the union rate is at 6% or about 7 million workers.  According to Simplyhired.com, the average Aramark food service worker is paid $14 an hour. From State Occupational Employment Wage Estimates, the average pay rate for an institutional cafeteria cook in Massachusetts is $10.99.  I leave you with these facts, and implore you to talk to your fellow students and engage our employees in these facts. With regard to unions, an informed person can make better rational decisions than a person who is uninformed.




Bryan Clarke

Gluten Free Chef

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