Anthony Elmo, the communications and political director for the United Food and Commerical Workers local union, said the workers had their own committee sitting at the negotiating table to help come up with the agreement.
“They negotiated their own contract and had a strong role in negotiating that contract,” Elmo said. “At this point, the workers need to actually vote on it.”
In addition to Sodexo representatives, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1000 (UFCW) negotiators were also present at the table. TCU Sodexo workers voted in favor of union representation in late March before joining the UFCW.
Exact details regarding the agreement are not expected to be released until the workers get a chance to see and vote on it themselves at ratification meetings on July 15.
The pair of meetings are currently scheduled for 11:00 a.m. and 5 p.m. at a nearby Holiday Inn Express.
“They’re going to get a chance to hear a presentation of the contract from our negotiators and their own worker negotiating committee,” Elmo said.
“The workers will get a chance to hear the contract and hear what’s being offered to them through the contract.”
Following the presentation, the workers will vote in favor of or against the contract, Elmo said.
“It’s a pretty generous contract and one that I’m happy the workers got to negotiate for themselves,” he said.
While the details have not been released yet, Elmo said the contract will likely look something like most union contracts.
Elmo mentioned job security, generous health insurance benefits, wage increases and a progressive discipline policy as hallmarks of a union contract to expect in the collective bargaining agreement.
“How supervisors treat employees is different now under the collective bargaining agreement,” Elmo said. “They’ve got to treat them with a certain level of respect and maintain that level.”
Although Elmo mentioned he did not see lack of respect as an issue across the board, he did say it presented itself as a problem in certain scenarios.
“I think there were some specific cases of supervisors not necessarily treating employees in an appropriate or respectful manner,” Elmo said.
“The company is forced by law now to adhere to this agreement and basically treat the employees with a certain level of respect.”
Elmo included a distinction between non-union workplaces and union workplaces in the discussion as well.
“In a non-union workplace, the employer holds all the cards,” he said. “They can hire and fire people at will, but in a union workplace, that’s not how it works.”
Making a Difference
“We think that overall this is going to result in about the same number of employees being eligible as in the past,” Sodexo Vice President for Benefits Julie Peterson said.
Elmo said the TCU workers’ decision to unionize directly contributed to the reversal and to the new agreement.
“I’d say it’s a direct correlation between the union organizing drives with these workers on TCU’s campus and Sodexo’s decision to reverse their policy of cutting healthcare for thousands of their workers,” he said
Elmo mentioned, prior to the policy reversal, Sodexo cut its workers’ hours, seniority pay, vacation pay and other ancillary benefits before blaming the change on the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
“A lot of these things have nothing to do with the ACA so now Sodexo has completely reversed itself and come back on this decision,” Elmo said.
“[TCU’s] workers really helped spark a national decision by Sodexo to reverse itself and go back on what it decided to do, which I think is a good thing for the worker’s nationally.”
With the collective bargaining agreement vote looming, Elmo said he thinks the workers will like what they see in relation to the previous policies.
“We’re under the expectation that it’s a very solid contract and they’ll be pretty happy with it,” he said.
Elmo also added he thinks an approval of the collective bargaining agreement will help restore security to Sodexo employees at TCU.
“These [jobs] have previously been low-income jobs that were kind of turning into the fast food industry,” he said. “This is moving it away from that.”
“This is moving it towards a stable, middle-class opportunity for people to have that’ll give them some stability and really help the community around TCU [while] helping these workers at the same time.”
Despite the decision, Elmo said he doesn’t believe students and faculty will notice increases in how much they pay for food.
“I think the increases in productivity and morale from the employees having a fair contract and a fair workplace will offset the possible long range costs,” he said.
Sodexo employees with questions regarding the upcoming ratification meetings can contact Executive Board member Casey Williams at 817-421-1003. Full details regarding the meetings can also be found on the UCFW’s website.