Aramark Workers Strike at Boston’s Convention Centers

On June 21st, hundreds of food service workers initiated a strike against the Philadelphia-based Food Service company, Aramark, walking off the job and picketing at Boston’s two biggest convention centers: the Hynes Convention Center (HCC) and the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center (BCEC). 350 food workers at the two convention centers, members of Unite Here Local 26, have been without a contract since October, and the company called off all negotiations in May.

Local 26 held large pickets at both convention centers all day during the three day strike, culminating in a rally of 200 workers and supporters Monday night. According to Brian Lang, vice president of Unite Here Local 26, the action was an “unfair labor practice strike.”

“The big issue is respect,” said Thomas, a Local 26 supporter and member of the Boston union of the Northeastern Federation of Anarcho-Communists. “These folks were working a long time without a contract, dealing with intimidation from the managers, and not even getting a chance to sit down at the table and negotiate.”

Along with the large number of workers without contracts, lack of respect, benefits and other “bread and butter issues,” Local 26 accuses Aramark of intimidating and threatening those involved in union activity. The company terminated three workers, including Carolyn Donovan and Theresa Kelley, members of Local 26’s bargaining committee, for their support of the union.

According to Matt Viser of the Boston Globe, Aramark representatives say Donovan and Kelley “were fired for reasons unrelated to their union advocacy,” but the workers of Local 26 disagree.

Thomas, who attended the rally and pickets said, “There was a lot of solidarity for the workers and boycott. The bus drivers, SEIU, and others came out in support. The teamsters are refusing to deliver to Aramark and the taxi drivers even refused to show up at the Convention Centers. Soon there was a line of people waiting for taxis, and the picketers were shouting: ‘No Justice, No Taxis!’”

According to an anonymous organizer for Unite Here, the battle is far from over. Though the three-day strike has ended, Local 26 will continue to picket and encourage Convention-center patrons to boycott Aramark. “We will have public actions in front of the convention centers,” said the organizer, “and the goal is to cancel as many contracts with Aramark as possible and pressure them back to the negotiating table.” The National Association of Letter Carriers, for one, has already canceled an Aramark food service contract for their meeting in late July at the BCEC.

Even the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, which runs the convention centers, has encouraged Aramark to treat their workers fairly, saying “We value the contribution food service workers have made to the success of the convention centers, and we believe they should receive a fair compensation package. We have urged Aramark to work with Local 26 to reach agreement on a new contract as quickly as possible for the benefit of the workers and for the benefit our customers..."

Aramark also employs food workers at most of Boston’s colleges and universities, many of whom are non-union and without decent benefits or wages.

[by Jake Carman, Reposted from BAAM! newsletter]