6/22/08

UNITE-HERE out on strike v. Aramark

Union calls for boycott of employer

Scores of food services workers marched today in front of Boston's two main convention centers and went on strike to protest what they consider unfair labor practices. The strike, which began this morning and will last through Monday, encourages weekend convention-goers to go without their mainstays: coffee, sandwiches, and snacks.

About 75 unionized workers of the concession giant Aramark Corp. started picketing this morning outside the Hynes Convention Center as thousands went to the Health and Fitness Expo, a two-day conference offering health screenings, fitness advice, and healthy cooking instructions. Dozens of other workers stood outside the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, which tomorrow will host the 44th annual meeting of the Drug Information Association.

A union spokesman said they were not asking convention-goers not to cross picket lines, but were instead asking them to boycott Aramark services inside.

The workers, who are members of Unite Here Local 26, claim that Aramark has engaged in a pattern of pentalizing workers for union activities. There are 400 members in the local, which has been without a contract since October.

Aramark representatives did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

The union wants benefits extended to a greater percentage of workers. Union representatives have argued that their previous contract was based on a sparse convention calendar, where food services only needed temporary and part-time workers. As business has increased, the union argues, the contract should treat the workers as permanent employees, providing them health insurance and other benefits.

Two members of the union's bargaining committee, Carolyn Donovan and Theresa Kelley, were fired by Aramark in the midst of contentious negotiations, union members argue. Aramark told the Globe this week that Donovan, who was let go in October, and Kelley, a coffee server released earlier this year, were fired for reasons unrelated to their union advocacy.

Management alleges that Donovan struck another employee, while Donovan says they were having an animated discussion but that she did not hit the other employee. Her firing is the subject of a formal complaint that is awaiting a ruling from the National Labor Relations Board.

(boston.com)

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