Union targets Aramark for repressing workers, ripping off eaters
Katie Walters
March 2008

Aramark has been the University of Florida's food service provider since 1995, with a beginning contract of $7 million. The last contract cycle cost UF $23 million and negotiations have begun for a new three-year contract. Aramark's website states the company, ". consistently ranks (by Fortune Magazine) as one of the top three most admired companies in its industry." They employee 250,000 workers and pulled in $11.6 billion in 2006.

But to what kind of company is UF shelling over $23 million for food services?

Aramark's record of placing profit over people (even their customers) speaks for itself. Last month Aramark proposed saving the state of Florida big money. Their plan: to cut inmates' caloric intake from 3,000 per day to 2,100. They claimed this would not affect inmates' nutrition or health (despite the fact that an adult male needs 2,900 to 3,000 calories per day). After reviewing the proposal, the secretary of the Florida Department of Corrections concluded, "the matter at hand here is Aramark's profit margin, not the savings to the State of Florida that they assert." Aramark consistently makes huge profits off reducing food quality, and therefore their costs, without passing these savings on to the state. A January 2007 report by the Inspector General of the Florida Department of Corrections found the state missed out on $4.9 million annually after Aramark began substituting less costly meat and $5.6 million annually in meals paid for but never served. As food quality declined, the share of inmates actually eating dropped by 8%. That's 18,000 meals the Aramark company was paid for but didn't serve to prisoners. The savings were not passed on to the State of Florida, tax payers, or Aramark employees.

Instead, Aramark rewards their employees with low wages, retaliation against union activity, and discrimination. The types of jobs performed by Aramark workers include over half the jobs cited on the Forbes 2007 list of the 25 lowest paying jobs in the country. This past November, union members rallied outside Aramark's Philadelphia headquarters in support of an organizing drive. Since then, at least 25 of the workers who marched have been subjected to dismissals, demotions, and discipline. The National Labor Relations Board has filed complaints against Aramark in various regions across the country, including Arizona where they are seeking civil prosecution. In Philadelphia, Aramark is under fire for charges of age and gender discrimination.

Why is Aramark Fortune Magazine's most admired company in its industry? Whom, exactly, is Aramark admired by? Certainly not the workers who illegally lost their jobs, were discriminated against, and provided low wages. Nor the inmates forced to eat sub-par food, the students charged extortionate prices for meal plans, or the taxpayers who never see the savings when Aramark cuts corners in contracts with the state of Florida. The only people who win are CEO Joseph Neubauer and other higher-ups who, after removing the company from public trading in 2007, can now enjoy their inflated profit margins without having to share with stockholders.

The union UNITE HERE! is currently working on a campaign to stop negotiations between UF and Aramark, and choose another food service provider instead. Aramark has enjoyed a rather cozy 12 years with UF, amounting to millions of dollars in profits. As a public university, UF has the responsibility to choose service providers that are decent community partners and Aramark continues to show its inability to care for anything but its own pocketbook.

For more information please contact Brian Callaci, UNITE HERE! (646) 460-3867

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