School workers tell Aramark no free lunch

PHILADELPHIA -- More than 1,000 workers and their supporters marched to Aramark Tower here –the food service company’s national headquarters—in a spirited demonstration to protest the corporate giant’s refusal to refund $7 million they say it owes to the School District of Philadelphia. The chants of the demonstrators, members of Unite Here and Service Employees union SEIU, echoed off the walls as darkness fell.

The school district cancelled its contract with Aramark in September saying that Aramark had not provided the contracted services for the agreed price. Rather than refunding the money, Aramark wants an additional $2.4 million dollars from the school district.

Lynne Fox, president of the Philadelphia Joint Board of Unite Here, told the World that Aramark should be held accountable for the money it has cost the school district. “This leaves a huge hole in the budget,” she said. The union has 2,300 members who work for the school district, but she emphasized that the demonstration was not only on behalf of the union’s members, but in support of the students and community as well.

According to a leaflet distributed at the rally, Aramark earned $1.6 billion dollars last year and its CEO made $16.1 million.

The demonstration was jointly organized by Unite Here and SEIU and attended by supporters from others unions. The crowd included striking union members from New York City and New Jersey. Speakers reminded the crowd that, in addition to its failure to fulfill its contract with the school district, Aramark was the only Center City building owner not to settle with its maintenance workers, who are members of SEIU, when most owners agreed to contracts in October.

Unite Here General President Bruce Raynor and Philadelphia AFL-CIO President Pat Eiding addressed the crowd along with Helen Gym of Parents United for Public Education and a speaker from the Philadelphia Student Union.