Sodexo workers at TCU voted in favor of labor union representation Monday night, moving the process of unionization and creating a union contract forward.
TCU Sodexo employees, voting for union representation by an 89-63 margin, will now be able to join the United Food and Commercials Workers (UFCW) local union, pay dues and elect representatives to represent them in collective bargaining with Sodexo.
Abraham Wangnoo, a UFCW Local 1000 organizer at the ballot count, said he was relieved after the result of the vote.
“There’s a sense of relief to the finality of [the vote],” said Wangnoo, who filed the initial petition for the vote on Feb. 10. “I’m starting to become really, really excited for [the workers] and really joyous about it.”
Wangnoo said that he and the Local 1000 union will start preparing for the creation of a union contract which TCU Sodexo employees will be able to enter.
“We got to make sure every single person who is eligible to participate has the opportunity to give as much input into what they want to see in this union contract,” said Wangnoo. “We want to make sure we have really good, strong proposals going to the table with Sodexo.”
Stephen Miller, general manager of Sodexo at TCU, attended the vote count on behalf of Sodexo and declined to comment on the result.
The votes were counted by a federal labor board agent, Sara Dunn, shortly after 7 p.m. on the first floor of the BLUU, where voting was held throughout the day. A representative of both the UFCW and Sodexo attended the entire election and the ballot count.
In total, 89 TCU Sodexo employees voted for the right to unionize while 63 voted against. A majority of the 152 employees who voted Monday was required for the vote to pass.
Lisa Albert, director of strategic communications for TCU, wrote in an email Monday night that the right to organize and the outcome of the vote is a matter between Sodexo and its TCU employees.
“TCU respects the rights of Sodexo employees to decide what is best for each of them,” Albert wrote.
Student Body President Cody Westphal called the unionization vote an important issue and said that many students care about the employees involved in the vote.
“I am happy that the process of employee voice being heard was exercised in a fair way that allowed the employees, our friends, to decide what was best for themselves,” Westphal wrote in an email.
The vote, set up after a UFCW petition in February, was an official National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election. The NLRB is the federal agency that monitors union elections and investigates unfair labor practices.
Wangnoo said the initial petition would have originally allowed only Sodexo workers who work at Market Square to vote. But the UFCW and Sodexo negotiated an election agreement that allowed all eligible TCU Sodexo employees to vote.
On Monday, 172 employees were eligible. Of those, about 88 percent of employees cast their ballots.
The petition, in accordance with NLRB procedures, required at least 30 percent of employees to show interest in a union. In the end, approximately 59 percent of eligible voters were for union representation.
According to Wangnoo and Sodexo employees, the vote was motivated, in part, by a change in Sodexo company policy that resulted in roughly 70 percent of Market Square employees losing benefits like health care coverage, vacation time and sick leave.
Sodexo, citing the Affordable Care Act, redefined full-time employment last fall. When the change took effect Jan. 1, many full-time Sodexo workers at TCU were redefined as part-time workers, effectively losing benefits they previously had as full-time employees.
Several Sodexo employees spoke previously with TCU 360 about their lives after the cuts came into effect.
Some students and student groups on campus actively voiced support for the workers’ right to unionize on Monday and in the week leading up to the union vote.
The campus chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) encouraged its members to support the unionization effort in an email.
Some students, such as junior strategic communication major LaQwen Nichols and junior political science major Alexis Lohse, passed out flyers in front of Market Square on Monday in support of the union vote.
“We have flyers in support of the cause to say ‘Vote Yes’ to inform students about the union and to tell the workers we support them,” Nichols said.
Nichols said she and other students went to the BLUU at 6:30 a.m. to talk to workers about their rights and the issue.
Westphal said, “You can be heard if you stick together and stand up for what is right and I think that was demonstrated today.”
Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 11:37 p.m. on Monday, March 24.