As over 1,500 students at Loyola Marymount University begin a massive boycott of Sodexo’s dining facilities this week, Sodexo’s general manager for the area, Lisa Farrell, has issued a revealing quote that may enrage workers and students all over the country.
The school’s newspaper, the Los Angeles Loyolan has the story of the boycott, which students are staging for reasons including “reducing the prices of perishable items such as fruit, making price reductions for students who choose to forgo meat and ensuring that workers are paid a living wage,” according to student Megan Lynch.
According to Lynch, Sodexo justifies their “high prices” by explaining that “workers are paid the local living wage of $11.25 per hour.” The students, however, “have come to find that many Sodexo employees make $8.50 to $9.00 an hour,” reports the Loyolan.
But here’s the kicker: within the article itself, Sodexo manager Lisa Farrell unintentionally admits that Sodexo does not pay a living wage, as defined by the City of Los Angeles’s living wage law. Here’s what she’s said to the Loyolan:
“The current L.A. living wage is … $10.30 an hour, with health benefits, or $11.55 an hour if no health benefits are offered. Here at LMU, we have a minimum starting wage of $9.05 per hour plus one meal per shift valued at $1.25…Sodexo offers full benefits to all full-time employees.”
The last time we checked, $9.05 an hour does not equal $10.30 an hour, nor does it equal $11.55 an hour.
And what about that free meal per shift valued at $1.25? Even if we gave Sodexo the benefit of the doubt and included that figure in lieu of actual pay – which would be extremely unusual – that would mean that a worker making $9.05 an hour and receiving the $1.25 meal would only make the living wage for the hour that they’re afforded that meal. For the rest of the hours they’re working, they’re still making $9.05. Nice try, though.
It’s also unclear how many of the Sodexo workers on site actually are afforded full-time positions that provide health-care benefits- meaning that for these workers, they would have to make $11.55 an hour to meet the living wage guidelines – not the $8.50 and $9.00 that the students are reporting.
And how about a second look at the $1.25 figure? As Farrell admits, the meals that the workers are provided are “valued at 1.25.” Explain that to the students spending $10 for that meal, as LMU student John Twehill says he does.
*This post originally appeared in the SEIU Blog on December 9, 2009. Reprinted with permission from the author.
About the Author: Brad Levinson is new media strategist for SEIU, where he current serves as the new media lead for the organization’s Property Services division. In addition to his daily role of designing and implementing new media programming for SEIU’s food service workers, security officers and janitors, his current work involves developing a functional model for successful online union organizing. Brad’s primary interests include online organizing, emerging media trends, online video, online anthropology and culture, and digital divide issues. He is a graduate of Drexel University and earned his masters in media and politics from Georgetown University.