Sodexo—the company that runs LMU’s campus food system—“has a long history of exploiting just about anyone they can,” including workers and inmates, said philosophy professor David Kovacs. After a recent announcement that Sodexo will initiate a change in holiday pay to the detriment of its employees, a protest ensued outside the Lair demanding better treatment for Sodexo workers.
Students, professors and Sodexo employees all joined in on the protest to show solidarity with the workers who “make our food, open early mornings, stay late hours and come on weekends to accommodate our needs,” said Mariel Fuentes, an undeclared freshman.
“The people I interact with every day are suffering and need to be heard,” she said, stressing that, as a community, we must advocate for each other’s needs.
Sodexo workers do need better treatment. However, as Sodexo is an international company, it may take too long before workers receive the working conditions they desire. A better course of action LMU can take to support its own workers is to end its partnership with Sodexo. And, while the way that Sodexo treats its employees is enough of a reason for LMU to end its partnership, the reasons do not stop there.
Sodexo is in charge of 122 separate prisons and immigrant detention centers outside of the U.S., according to Medium.
In addition, during the protest, Sodexo employees expressed feeling underpaid and undervalued for the type of work they are doing.
LMU needs to rethink its dining system and whether its dollars are going to ethical vendors. By allowing Sodexo to hold a space on campus, the University is remaining complicit in a system of private prisons and in worker exploitation. The grievances mentioned at the event including low wages, disrespect and sexual harassment at the hands of Sodexo. Is this what our University should stand for?
LMU has the money, power and resources to do the right thing, and yet continues to support a system that runs counter to its Jesuit values. While the protest brought attention to the issue, it is not a new one. It is past time for the University to take action and begin looking for other companies to support — ones that treat their employees in a morally sound way.
Sodexo does not deserve a place at this University, so LMU needs to begin taking concrete steps towards this end. Speakers at the event called for students to assert that all workers must be given dignity. As part of a University community, it is our job stand together with those saying they are not being given this dignity.
“If one group is suffering at the hands of the powerful, we all have an obligation to step up,” said Kovacs. Catholic Social Teachings Catholic Social Teachings call for the dignity of work and the rights of workers. This is entirely attainable and, by removing Sodexo from campus, LMU can begin to give its dining workers the dignity they deserve.
Additional reporting by Gabs Jeakle, Bluff intern.
This is the opinion of Jordan Boaz, a sophomore women's and gender studies major from Denver, Colorado. Tweet comments @LALoyolan or email firstname.lastname@example.org.