Speaker at Rally Supporting Sodexo Workers’ Right to Organize

After a long day at the office writing rec letters and thank you letters and request letters, I drove (!) home and got my bike and headed back to campus for a rally in support of Tulane’s Sodexo employees’ efforts to organize a union. I stood there with my bike and took this picture of a work speaking in front of McAlister Auditorium. She has worked at Tulane for 40 years. Since 1970. For longer than I’ve been alive. She makes less that $10 an hour after all that time. I put this into perspective for myself like this: when I stopped working at McDonald’s in Boise, Idaho in 1993, I made $5.25 an hour. As a high school student with a young and healthy body and no one to support except myself. I saved all those pennies and bought my first laptop computer for my first year at college, which I attended on full scholarship. I made $10 an hour at my work study job. In 1994. I made more money than this woman who has worked here for decades doing work that is far more demanding than my work study job sitting around at the Women’s Center, reading books and chatting with my friends who worked there too. After graduation I made $12-$16 an hour as a temp, and then $9 an hour at that video store in DC. And this woman is making less than $10 an hour after forty years of labor at a fancy private school with a huge endowment. Because this is how contract labor works. I stood there with my bike, wondering how we know these things, how we understand and feel these massive inequities, and honestly consent to live in this world.

4 thoughts on “Speaker at Rally Supporting Sodexo Workers’ Right to Organize

  1. Great post, commie. 🙂

    Not only that but increasingly people like this have to complete with legal foreign temps. Here’s something fun and a big time waster: download these spreadsheets, extract Louisiana and look at the explosion in the number of H2B visas since Katrina.

    http://www.flcdatacenter.com/CaseH2B.aspx

    We’re talking a ten-fold increase (2000+ H2B requests in 2005 to almost 40,000 H2B requests in 2008), and though I’m sure it’s gone down a bit since the economic recession, the number are probably permanently going to be higher than they were.

    These underpaid employees compete with these H2B workers, when even have fewer rights. (Google “Decatur Hotels” and “lawsuit” and “foreign workers.”)

    I think all of this is tied together to keep wages down in these type of hard, crappy jobs that don’t pay well even when they pay living wages.

    And foreign temps are even worse off in many cases: “at will” employees who help suppress wages for entry-level positions, who can be fired and deported at any time for any reason (so they don’t complain about crappy treatment or dangerous work), can’t file workmen’s comp (even though the legal foreign temps pay into it) and can be cycled in and out every six months. Wage theft is only the tip of this iceberg.

    Maybe I’m getting off topic, but I think all of this is somewhat related. Having a lot of “at will” legal foreign temps in your city means overall wage suppression at the entry level, and cutting off opportunities for locals to get experience by having these entry level jobs. This is especially pertinent in welding, construction and landscaping, but it can affect cleaners and housekeepers, too.

    As you can tell, I really like this subject even if it’s not bike related 🙂

  2. Everyone should read Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, Barbara Eisenreich. A book gift from Emily and Kate that really opened my eyes.

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