Editor in Chief
The ARAMARK workers at Springfield College may have decisively won the right to organize a union last semester, but they now face a new challenge – negotiating for their first contract.
Six workers were voted to a negotiating committee by their peers to serve alongside chief negotiator Emma Ross, including Matt Grimes, Erskine Kelly, Lakisha Collins, Kevin Hair, Joe Johnson and Reggie Woodard. The group has been hard at work negotiating for the union’s first contract with ARAMARK on the corporate level.
Unfortunately, the process remains unfinished, with seven of the 35 articles still incomplete due to complications from several cancellations on ARAMARK’s behalf. Their chief negotiator, according to Lakisha Collins and Erskine Kelly, is travelling from Texas, and has had to cancel three out of the five negotiation meetings.
“We kind of feel handcuffed,” Kelly said in regards to the cancellations. “It’s getting frustrating for the committee and the workers when we have to go back to them and answer their questions.”
“I am frustrated, but I also know that I have a job to do at ARAMARK [at] Springfield College. I can’t let my fellow employees see my frustration,” Collins, another committee member, added. “I have to stay strong for them.”
The contract cannot be enforced until all 35 articles have been completed. In order to be completed, all sections of an article must be agreed to by both sides.
Despite only having two days of negotiations, the negotiating committee has successfully agreed to a number of important articles that they brought to the table. Among the articles includes the right to promotions and schedules by seniority and skill, the right to a fair discipline process, ServeSafe training for everyone who wants it, and one full day of paid time off per month.
In spite of these victories, a number of important articles still remain, including pay raises and health insurance. Until the contract is completed, workers cannot receive any raises. While the negotiating committee remains confident and firm with their requests, they also feel the weight that these cancellations are putting on all of the workers.
ARAMARK’s corporate communications department released the following statement via email to The Student in response to the negotiations’ process:
“It would not be appropriate to comment on the negotiations. However, we continue to bargain in good faith and hope to reach an agreement that works for everyone.”
The committee has stayed resolute in order to achieve the original goal of creating a union in the first place – to receive fair treatment and respect.
“I think that once the contract is finished and everyone gets their own personal copy, and they read through it really carefully, they’ll see that we looked out for their best interests as best as we possibly could,” Collins said.
While they must wait until the end of February for the next scheduled negotiations meeting, the committee continues to keep faith that they are fighting for all of the right reasons.
“We’re ready. We’re ready for change and it’s what we’ve been fighting for, for the last nine months,” Kelly said. “I think we’re headed in the right direction for the present and the future.”