A little over a week after students and workers took to the Spine to protest, Sodexo and the union representing its Binghamton University employees have reached a tentative contract.
The company and representatives from United Professional and Services Employees Union (UPSEU) 1222 agreed on a contract around 10 p.m. on Tuesday night, according to labor representative Paul Iachetta.
Iachetta said the agreement addressed the issues they had been pressing for, including hourly wage increases for higher-skilled, or classified, workers. These issues were part of the reason that negotiations stalled for weeks, as Sodexo representatives had initially refused the requests.
“We’ve got increases that range from 50 cents to a $1.75 an hour for more skilled positions,” he said. “That was a big one. That was the issue throughout the campaign, what with minimum wage going up. We wanted to make sure there was some incentive for workers to move up and get better at their jobs.”
Other concessions included shift differentials, meaning extra compensation for those on-the-clock outside of normal work hours, added vacation days for those who have worked at BU for more than 20 years and a more comprehensive health care plan. The plan, which includes dental and eye care, will also be offered to them for about $23 a week opposed to the prior weekly fee of $38 for a less comprehensive plan.
The contract still needs to be ratified, which Sodexo Resident Dining Manager Jim Ruoff said should happen without issue. It would span from Jan. 1, 2016 to Dec. 31, 2017. The contract also includes retroactive payment for when workers were on the clock without a contract, beginning last May until this April.
“It gives the workers a sense of security, that their jobs are safe, and benefits they can save some money on,” Iachetta said. “And they’re going to be making more money.”
Marketplace worker Mark Myers said he was ecstatic about the agreement.
“I’m happy about what I’m hearing,” he said. “It’s a great thing for people who don’t have insurance, and takes a toll off the workers. I’m happy.”
Ruoff said Sodexo was pleased with the negotiation’s outcome as well.
“Sodexo is proud [of] our longstanding partnership with the University and we appreciate the patience of the faculty, staff, administration and students as we worked through negotiations,” he wrote in an email. “Most importantly, we thank the hourly employees at Sodexo Dining Services for their hard work and continued dedication to the Binghamton University Community, which never wavered throughout the entire process.”
Over the course of the past few weeks, a number of students and faculty members had marched in protests, signed petitions and voiced their discontent over the stalled negotiations. Iachetta said this was a factor in bringing Sodexo back to the bargaining table.
“I think the pressure from the students played a key part,” he said. “Sodexo came back and made reasonable offers and we negotiated in good faith, and they did as well. We were able to come to an agreement. We worked ‘til about 10 o’clock the other night, and everything worked out well.”
Alex Grabstein, a protest organizer and junior majoring in environmental studies, said he was happy with the benefits that the workers earned.
“I think this outcome displays the strength of people working in concert together,” he said. “Hopefully the friendships we built remain strong in the future.”
On behalf of the University, Vice President for Student Affairs Brian Rose said he was thankful that the two parties were able to come to an agreement.
“I also thank all Sodexo employees (workers and management alike) for continuing to provide outstanding service to the campus while you were all working through the collective bargaining process,” he wrote in an email. “Finally, I’m proud of the many students who took an interest in the matter and gave their own voices to the process. You were heard.”