Senators urge Sodexo to negotiate in good faith with food service workers

U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown sent a letter to Federal Reserve Bank of New York President John C. Williams and Sodexo Group CEO Sophie Bellon to express support for the food service workers of UNITE HERE Local 100 as they begin contract negotiations.

UNITE HERE Local 100 is the labor union for workers in cafeterias, executive dining rooms, restaurants, bars, delis, airports, sports and exhibition halls and performing arts centers throughout New York City, Westchester, Long Island and New Jersey.

Workers who perform critical food service work in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (NY Fed) facility have been striving to negotiate a new contract with their employer Sodexo Group (Sodexo), for years.

The most recent collective bargaining agreement between Sodexo and Unite Here expired on February 28, 2022.

“For more than a full year, these workers – who perform critical food service work in the Federal Reserve Bank of NewYork (NY Fed) facility – have been attempting to negotiate a new contract with their employer Sodexo Group (Sodexo),” wrote Warren and Brown.

“Now that Sodexo will reportedly be joining Unite Here at the bargaining table tomorrow, we urge Sodexo to negotiate in good faith with its workers and to reach a contract that guarantees them a livable wage. Furthermore, we urge the NY Fed to utilize all tools at its disposal as Sodexo’s client to guarantee these workers a fair and just contract,” wrote Warren and Brown.

In the letter, Warren and Brown note workers’ primary demand to increase their minimum wage to $20 per hour to account for the rise in the cost of living since their last wage increase in March 2021.

While Sodexo has reportedly committed to meeting that demand, the senators emphasized the importance of the commitment being reflected in a competitive collective bargaining agreement, and the importance of the NY Fed using their leverage as a client of Sodexo to help address their concerns.

“Sodexo is not alone in its obligation to engage productively with its food service workers: as Sodexo’s client and the facility in which these workers perform their jobs, the NY Fed has the tools and the institutional mandate to help address their concerns,” wrote Warren and Brown.

“The NY Fed can express its support for the workers through public statements or private discussions with Sodexo leadership and managers. The NY Fed has a commitment to these essential food service workers that serve it every day, and we urge the NY Fed to demonstrate that commitment by supporting these workers as they negotiate for a fair contract,” wrote Warren and Brown.

Employees working for the largest federal food service contractor, Sodexo, are raising concerns about lagging wages to Congress in hopes lawmakers will support more competitive wages on government contracts.

Members of Unite Here, a labor union representing 300,000 employees across various industries, picketed outside the Federal Reserve building in New York last year, saying inflation further eroded wages that already lag behind the private sector.

Sodexo workers in the Federal Reserve say they lack the money to cover basic living expenses, even though President Joe Biden issued an executive order that required contractors to pay their employees a $15 minimum wage.

Though service contracts set a wage and benefit floor intended to protect workers from competition whittling down pay, those minimums have a tendency to become the de facto ceiling and are difficult to adjust.

Some of the lowest paid workers in New York make less than $2 above the minimum, still below what’s considered a living wage for the locality.

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