On April 9, a representative from our current food service provider, Sodexo Inc., confronted students rallying in front of Student Union 62/63 where an open forum was held. The meeting was for students to express their concerns about the current food program and propose changes. At around noon, the Sodexo representative left the meeting and tore up signs and materials the students had posted, ignoring their pleas to stop. Distressed by the situation, the students called University Police, who later filed a report on the incident.
We at The New Paltz Oracle are outraged that students were forced out of an open forum where client feedback was requested by the company. We are appalled that students merely expressing their opinions were treated so harshly. The forum was meant for the student body to freely address their thoughts and feelings on the present food service and when negative responses were given, the company attempted to silence them in an aggressive way.
If our society expects to see changes, voices must be heard and not silenced. In order to make changes on our campus, student voices are essential. The school is for students after all. Disturbingly, it appears New Paltz students are not the first group Sodexo has attempted to silence.
Sodexo Inc. is a multinational corporation serving campuses across the nation, as well as 120 prisons worldwide. The company has a history of abusing workers’ rights in the United States and in countries abroad such as the Dominican Republic, Columbia and Morocco, according to documents of the NGO TransAfrica. It is startling that Sodexo’s intolerance for justice doesn’t end with the rallying of New Paltz students.
Sodexo has been accused of firing workers in Columbia as a result of their efforts to form a labor union. In Guinea, workers allegedly are not allowed to drink from the same canteen as European workers. They claim the food they are given is scarce in contrast with the European laborers. In the United States, Sodexo also launched an aggressive campaign against some of their employees’ efforts to form unions and bargain collectively. These examples seem to indicate Sodexo likes to rough-up anyone who speaks or acts against the company.
Sodexo is not a good fit for our campus. We should not support a company known for mistreating employees and denying them of their rights.
In addition, Sodexo has been found guilty of scamming universities and public schools across the nation. The New York State Attorney General’s Office conducted an investigation in 2010 that found Sodexo cheated SUNY colleges, including New Paltz, out of millions of dollars. The New York Times found that Sodexo continues to exploit legal loopholes that allow the company to pocket funds intended for our schools through a process called “prompt payment discounts.”
We desperately urge Campus Auxiliary Services (CAS) and administration to review the college’s contract with Sodexo as their contract is up for renewal and other food services are up for consideration. We ask that these other services are seriously considered and the contract with Sodexo is not renewed for the aforementioned reasons. We refuse to support a service which abuses employees, swindles schools out of money and serves unhealthy food to young consumers. Our university deserves better service and an equitable business relationship. We as students are entitled to healthier food for a more affordable price, which can be found with alternative providers.
We look forward to working with CAS and the administration and would like to see the contract with Sodexo reassessed in the coming year.