Food service workers at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth on July 15 ratified their first collective bargaining agreement.
The workers began organizing a union last year when their employer Sodexo reclassified many of them as part-time employees. Those reclassified lost their health care insurance and their vacation and sick pay benefits.
The organizing drive resulted in a March union representation election in which workers voted 89 to 63 to join United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1000.
The workers’ bargaining committee reached a tentative agreement with Sodexo in June.
“It was so inspiring to see these workers bargain their first contract,” said Casey Williams, secretary-treasurer of UFCW Local 1000. “It was an honor to sit down next to them at the negotiating table and fight for their seniority, vacations, and raises.”
The new collective bargaining agreement restores the workers’ health care, vacation, and sick pay benefits. It also provides for annual pay raises for the life of the contract, establishes seniority rights and a job bidding process, and improves job security.
The new agreement is the result of an organizing effort that began soon after Sodexo announced its benefit cuts. After the announcement, some TCU Sodexo workers contacted Local 1000.
With the help of Local 1000, the workers formed an organizing committee, which they named TCU Sodexo Workers United.
Members of the organizing committee began talking to other workers about forming a union, gathered signatures on a union representation petition, created a Facebook page, and conducted an outreach campaign that won support among TCU students and faculty.
After the workers won their union representation vote, they prioritized their bargaining proposals and elected a negotiating committee.
Bargaining for the first contract lasted about two months, a relatively short time for most first collective bargaining agreements.
“The talks were civil and professional,” said Roy Papajohn, a Sodexo worker and UFCW negotiating committee member. “. . . Both sides were tough in the bargaining, but we were able to find middle ground on areas of disagreement. I feel we reached a fair agreement and TCU workers are happy with the final outcome.”
Sodexo workers at TCU aren’t the only ones to fight back when their benefits were eliminated.
Sodexo workers at Curry College in Milton, Massachusetts, Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, and Emerson College in Boston also began forming unions when Sodexo announced the benefit cuts.
These organizing drives and other efforts by Sodexo workers and their student and faculty allies caused Sodexo to reverse itself and restore health care and other benefits.
The successful organizing campaign at TCU could lead to more Sodexo workers joining Local 1000.
The Dallas Morning News reports that Local 1000 is working with Sodexo workers at Texas A&M-Commerce and Dallas Baptist University in Texas and Tulsa University, Oral Roberts University, and Langston University in Oklahoma to help them form unions.
“(The first contract with Sodexo at TCU) is an opportunity to continue offering the chance to organize to other Sodexo workers,” said Anthony Elmo, Local 1000 communications and political director to the Dallas News. “I think they’ll be interested to hear what the union can help them accomplish.”