About 40 students attended the Nov. 2 Sodexo Teach in sponsored by Labor Initiative in Promoting Solidarity to learn more about the rights of workers on the Ithaca College campus.
Senior Kiera Lewis, organizing coordinator for the Labor Initiative in Promoting Solidarity, helped organize the event. She said she believed it was an important event because students need to be informed about the living wage, or the amount of money one worker needs to survive without social services.
“This is something we can have an affect on,” Lewis said.
Lewis said in Tomkins County, the living wage is $11.11 an hour with health insurance or $12.11 without it. On campus, 117 workers are not qualified to earn that living wage because through Sodexo, which is not located in Tompkins County, Lewis said.
Living wage was not the only issue discussed at the teach-in. The group also pointed out the right of workers to organize without risk of being fired, equal benefits and job security.
Senior Samantha Wolfe, a member of Labot Initiative in Promoting Solidarity, spoke at the teach-in and addressed many issues including job security. In particular, Wolfe questioned the job security of current Sodexo workers.
“It’s legal to be fired for no reason at all,” she said.
Labor Initiative in Promoting Solidarity also addressed another concern. According to Labor Initiative in Promoting Solidarity members, some workers are not getting the respect and raises they deserve after working for years. They told the story of a man who had been working for 15 years without receiving many raises. But it was not the issue of money that bothered him, but the fact that he felt he didn’t receive respect from his employers after being such a dedicated worker.
Junior Rebekah Forni attended the event and said she wasn’t shocked at the details presented, but appreciated the strategies the group wanted to use to solve the problem at hand.
Early in the presentation, one of the students speaking drew a chart on the board displaying how students were on one end, the college and Sodexo were in the middle, and the workers were at the end — showing they were all connected.
While Labor Initiative in Promoting Solidarity, and other organizations like the Tompkins County Workers’ Center are trying to get these problems solved, it is important for workers to stick together and stand up for their rights, Peter Meyers, coordinator of the Tompkins County Workers Center, said.
“If workers want to better their lives, workers want to better their working conditions, then what they have to do is organize,” Meyers said.