Update: Statement regarding campus discussion of labor unions and Sodexo at Earlham College

June 09, 2014

The following is a statement from Earlham College President David Dawson regarding campus discussion of labor unions and Sodexo employees: 

Earlham has now negotiated and signed a contract addendum with Sodexo effective June 5, 2014 to provide food service on the Earlham campus. This new contract requires Sodexo to classify their full-time and part-time employees in a manner consistent with Earlham's employment practices. Those persons who work 30 hours or more per week during the academic year will be considered full-time employees for the purpose of determining eligibility for employment benefits.

The Vendor Relations Committee has reviewed Sodexo's employee classification and paid time off practices, along with those of other major food service vendors and Earlham's own practices. The committee has advised that they find Sodexo's practices as defined in this new contract to be consistent with Earlham’s Vendor Relations Principles for ethical treatment of employees and consistent with other major food service vendors. Over the coming year, the Committee will continue to monitor Sodexo’s work for the College with attention to alignment with principles outlined in Earlham’s Vendor Relations Policy. The attachment to this message contains the recommendation from the Vendor Relations Committee that has informed the College's approach to this matter.

All of us who have worked on this issue wish to thank students, faculty and staff for expressing their thoughts forthrightly in a helpful and constructive manner. I am especially grateful for the timely, careful and responsible work of the Earlham Vendor Relations Committee.

— EC —


April 17, 2014

The following is a statement from Earlham College President David Dawson regarding campus discussion of labor unions and Sodexo employees: 

Last week we conveyed to Sodexo management the letter that was sent to you on March 17, 2014 regarding union activities on our campus. Along with the letter, we requested that Sodexo review their decisions in order to address our concerns as a community for the welfare of the Sodexo workers. As was pointed out in that letter, our concerns are informed not only by the law, but also by the principles that we use to assess our relations with vendors. 

Subsequently, we have received accounts of actions by Sodexo corporate management that, if they occurred as they were described to us, would represent forms of disrespect that would be inconsistent with our expectations for our vendors. Those accounts are now part of our ongoing conversation with Sodexo management. We have also received reports of Sodexo workers who may not favor a union expressing their sense of feeling disrespected by others who do favor a union. Disrespect by anyone, of anyone, is not consistent with our aspiration to abide as a community by the values expressed in Principles and Practices

I want to make it very clear that we in the administration share the concerns and deep frustrations of many others on campus, and that we are working diligently within the boundaries of the law and with guidance from Earlham principles to help move this situation rapidly to a resolution that will be consistent with Earlham’s community standards and expectations. As indicated in the previous letter, our policy on vendor relations makes available to the College a variety of means to achieve the goal of aligning vendor practices with community principles, including the options of substantially changing or dissolving our relationship with particular vendors. All of those means and options remain under active consideration. 

Given the significant impact of unionizing activities on our campus, Laura Hutchinson, Sena Landey and I found it especially helpful and rewarding to meet yesterday with interested students Emma McGrath, Abe Shklar and Claire Welsh. We were able to clarify the strong commitment of many students to support the right of Sodexo workers to join a union, a right firmly supported in last week’s letter as well. We also discussed at length our shared commitment to the values of Principles and Practices, most specifically that of respect. It is our mutual hope that as we move toward the close of the semester and a union election vote by Sodexo employees, you will join us in being mindful of the need to respect the rights and dignity of all persons involved, thereby exemplifying Earlham at its best. 

— EC —

Earlham College, a national liberal arts college located in Richmond, Indiana, is a "College That Changes Lives." We expect our students to be fully present: to think rigorously, value directness and genuineness, and actively seek insights from differing perspectives. The values we practice at Earlham are rooted in centuries of Quaker tradition, but they also constitute the ideal toolkit for contemporary success. Earlham is one of only 40 national liberal arts colleges ranked among U.S. News and World Reports' "Great Schools at a Great Price."

Brian Zimmerman is director of media relations at Earlham College. He can be reached at (765) 983-1256 and zimmebr@earlham.edu.

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