Sodexo workers deserve compassion

Have you ever thought about who makes up our Colby community? Certainly, there are diferent answers for everybody, but we all eat in the dining halls at some point. For all of us, Sodexo workers are a substantial part of our community. Maybe we just pass by, ask them how they are doing, and say thank you on our way back to our busy lives. But there is always more context to an interaction.

There is a labor justice component to think about in relation to every dining hall. From the net of information, awareness, and simply gratefulness for our comfortable lives, United for Better Dining Services (UBDS), a group of students, faculty, and staf, emerged to look critically at what it means to work in the dining halls at Colby.

We found that many improvements have happened over the years, but we also realized that there are still improvements to be made. Afer extensive research, we found that Sodexo employees do not get paid a living wage, that part-time workers do not have access to health care, and that working experiences and job security are problematic.

Such working conditions seem to be inherently contradictory to Colby’s commitment to social justice.

So last semester UBDS organized. We initiated the awareness campaign “Love and Improve Sodexo” with a goal to improve the working conditions of the dining hall workers. We gathered over 300 petition signatures and delivered them to President Greene in order to start the conversation. We repeatedly met with the administration of Colby and Sodexo, organized a successful awareness week, and reached out to the student body. At the end of the year, the administration and UBDS collaborated on an open forum to discuss the economic and ethical implications of the Colby-Sodexo relationship and to talk about the possibilities of improving the conditions of Sodexo workers at Colby. President Greene committed to make the conversation about workers’ wages and conditions a priority for Colby. We all agreed on the importance of social justice. And so UBDS exists not to contradict the Colby administration, but rather to hold them accountable for standing up to these social justice principles that are so central to the Colby community.

Not only do we need to hold the administration accountable, we also need to be accountable for each other. In the busyness of our lives, we ofen forget who supports our basic needs. We ofen forget that there is more to social justice than being nice to each other. We do not intend to speak for the workers; we speak for ourselves. We are Colby students and we want everybody to be part of the Colby community, because without any one person, this community could not support our basic needs the way it does now. We care deeply about the Sodexo workers, and we hope you can join us.

Yes, labor justice issues can seem hard to address, but we believe that there are clear frst steps on our journey. In collaboration with the administration, we want to create a committee to consider the future of dining services at Colby and keep advocating for equating the minimum wage to a living wage. Moreover, we want to foster communication between the students and workers to create a community in which we can hold each other up and support each other even outside the four walls of our dining halls.

For us, Sodexo workers are part of the Colby community, and we believe that they deserve a life in which they do not need to worry about making ends meet. Tey contribute a tremendous amount to our education, and improving their working conditions aligns with the Colby mission.

So we ask you: can we care for So- dexo workers the way we care about other parts of our Colby community?