Sodexo: Human Rights Abuses In The Food Service Industry
By Nicole C. Lee, Esq
(TriceEdneyWire.com) - Look around you. Practically every good and service you use is not provided by companies in your neighborhood. Multi-national corporations bring you most everything from your television set to your fruits and vegetables. They are so common place now that most of us dont notice them and we just assume they are benign operations here to serve us.
Among the companies many of us dont notice is Sodexo. They provide the cafeteria and linen services at many US colleges and universities, hospitals, government facilities and many other sites. We seldom consider how the workers behind the scenes are treated. Sodexo has been found to have human rights abuses in the US and throughout the African world that are staggering.
Sodexo is the 21st largest company in the world. It has 6,000 sites around the world. It has 120,000 employees and services 10 million people. Last year it reported an income of $7.7 billion. Yet workers for the company suffer under some of the worse conditions.
Danny Glover, the chairman of the Board of TransAfrica, learned about Sodexos abuses in 2010. He then called upon me, the President of TransAfrica, to conduct an international study of Sodexo. The organization dispatched human rights researchers to countries with large Afro-descendant populations where Sodexo does business. We went to Morocco, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and the United States. The organization was unable to gain entry into Guinea and used a report from a freelance journalist who conducted the same research. The results were startling and consistent from site to site.
The new report by TransAfrica Forum, Voices for Change: Sodexo Workers From Five Countries Speak Out, recounts the abuses described by Sodexo workers. The report finds that Sodexo employs the lowest-road employment practices which offer workers the lowest wages possible and deprives them of their basic human dignity.
In one location women are forced to take pregnancy tests to get or keep their jobs. Workers are forced to eat the food off the trays left by customers. On at least one occasion workers suffered food poisoning from the spoiled food and were taken to hospitals. The racism is so apparent at one site the managers from that host country cannot sit in the cafeteria with the white managers from France. And across the board workers complained about having to work forced overtime and not receiving payment for their overtime work. The workers also told our researcher that often they have to provide their own safety equipment and there are reports of deaths at Sodexo plants due to lack of proper training. In the United States Black workers are not promoted at the same rate as their white counterparts. The full report is available on TransAfricas website at www.transafrica.org
TransAfrica has launched an international campaign against Sodexo. We have taken our complaints to the US Congress. In late January I attended the Sodexo shareholders meeting in France and spoke with investors. Sodexo is a huge corporation that can ill afford to have investors concerned about human and labor rights abuses. In addition, we have asked the 2012 London Olympic Committee to deny Sodexo a multi-billion dollar contract. The same request was made in Brazil for the upcoming World Cup games and the 2016 Olympics.
It behooves us all to stop large corporations from abusing their privileges. Sodexo is not the only bad player on the international stage, but if we can bring Sodexo to some kind of global labor agreement to improve conditions then maybe the others will follow suit or we take the next fight to them.
Nicole C. Lee, Esq. is the President of TransAfrica Forum