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Illinois: Living Wage Campaign cancels protest after cuts prevented
Daily Northwestern
Meghan Morris

January 17, 2012
View the Original Article


Instead of marching from Pick-Staiger Hall to Sodexo's food services office as originally scheduled on Monday afternoon, members of the Living Wage Campaign met to discuss their most recent success and to plan for the upcoming quarter.

The group intended to protest Sodexo's proposed hourly cuts for dining hall workers after LWC co-director Kellyn Lewis said various workers would face a two-and-a-half-hour per week reduction. But Lewis said after workers sent Sodexo coverage from The Daily and information about the planned protest, the company announced Friday it would reinstate the hours.

Sodexo district manager Steve Mangan declined to comment.

"The threat of the march was enough for them to back down," Lewis, a Weinberg senior, said. "(Sodexo) guaranteed worker cutbacks won't be large."

The company originally planned to cut hours back by about 8 percent but will now make only typical seasonal adjustments that affect a few workers, Lewis said.

LWC had organized the intended march at a meeting Jan. 9, but when it was no longer pertinent, the group of 14 students met in a University Hall classroom for two hours. The students discussed their individual inspirations for participating in LWC, from a desire for social justice to personal connections with food service employees.

"A lot of people are uncomfortable and feel distant from the service workers," Weinberg junior Jaleel Reed said. "But if you take a step back, they're human. And with that in mind, why not have a relationship with anyone you come across?"

Some participants pointed out the importance of celebrating their victory on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

"Finally, we have these opportunities where race shouldn't matter, and we get to the dining halls and see the people cooking are black and Latino while the students they're cooking for are white or Asian," Weinberg freshman Pleshette Strong said.

The group does not have any specific future plans related to workers' salaries, but Lewis said LWC will continue to fight for workers' rights.

"We want to empower workers as frequently and as much as we can," Lewis said.

Next, LWC plans to focus on a "real food movement," which it announced in October, and on continued support for workers.

Weinberg junior Will Bloom discussed plans to protest in Indianapolis in February with the same union that represents Northwestern's dining hall workers. He said he expects 1,000people to picket a Hyatt hotel to protest poor working conditions.

"This will be one of the best tastes we can get of the power of organizing," Lewis said.

In addition to this specific protest, Lewis said the group aims to help with immigration issues. He said LWC will focus on building coalitions for Sodexo workers who want immigration protection in their contracts.