What else do PwC and Goldman Sachs have in common other than the vendor who provides their cafeteria services?
PwC is Goldman Sachs external auditor. For now…
Hundreds of people who work at the cafeterias of many of Wall Street’s largest investment banks staged a rally Wednesday in front of Goldman Sachs. All of them are employed by Aramark, a gigantic Philadelphia-based company that, according to its Web site, has about 250,000 employees serving clients in 19 countries. It is even listed in Fortune magazine as one of “America’s Most Admired Companies.” It also operates cafeterias all over the city.
Its food-service employees, though, do not find much to admire in a company with a long history of hostility toward its workers.
“Our contract expired Oct. 31, 1997, and since then we have negotiated with Aramark about seven times. But there has been no progress,” said Juan Ramírez, a cook at the Bank of New York cafeteria, at 101 Barclay St.
Ramírez, who has two children, ages 6 and 3, is one of 32 striking workers at two Bank of New York cafeterias (the other one is at One Wall St.), in Manhattan’s Financial District. The workers are not asking for much.
“We are asking for a 75-cent increase,” said Ramírez, who after six years makes $10.70 an hour. “Food, rent, transportation – everything has gone up. We can’t live on what we make now.”
Most people would agree that a yearly salary of $660,000 is, to say the least, pretty good. And that was approximately what the average Goldman Sachs employee made last year. Lucky him. The workers in the cafeteria at the huge global investment bank and the other locations operated by Aramark are not so lucky. On average, they took home about $21,000 last year, which is less than what the average Goldman Sachs employee makes in two weeks.
Technically, the Goldman Sachs cafeteria workers are not employed by the financial concern, but by Aramark.
But as Bruce Raynor, president of Unite Here, the union that represents the workers, pointed out, Goldman Sachs owns 20% of Aramark. As one of the owners, he said, it could do much to help share the wealth and lift its cafeteria workers out of poverty.
The decision to strike, workers said, did not come easily. But after more than four months working without a contract, the men and women – who belong to Unite Here Local 100 and SEIU 32BJ – felt they had no option.
“They don’t have any respect for us,” said Betty Ann Montano, another striking worker, referring to her bosses. Since Tuesday, the Trinidad native, who has worked for Aramark for 8-1/2 years, has been on the picket line with her colleagues every day…
AT PriceWaterhouseCoopers and Citigroup’s executive dining room, the workers are fighting for the right to decide, without management interference, whether they want a union. Aramark’s reaction has been a campaign of intimidation.
Goldman Sachs is “in a position to change the company’s course,” Raynor said. “We expect Goldman and the other owners of Aramark to rein in this company’s behavior, or be held accountable for it.”
They could start by making Aramark pay fair wages and provide affordable health insurance to its employees. And they could demand that Aramark treat its employees with respect and stop its practice of intimidating the workers who want to exercise their right to form a union.
Clergy to support Aramark Workers at PricewaterhouseCoopers on Wed. March 19
New York, NY: Clergy members will lead a special blessing of the Aramark workers at PricewaterhouseCoopers for their sacrifice and struggle for justice at a 3:30 p.m. rally on March 19th at 300 Madison Avenue. Easter lilies and daffodils will be handed to participants, as their beauty embodies the tradition of Easter. Clergy members are coming together in support of Aramark workers to urge PricewaterhouseCoopers to follow its own Code of Conduct and demand that workers in its own headquarters are treated with dignity and respect. PricewaterhouseCoopers generated $7.5 billion in revenues last year.
Four months ago, cafeteria workers at PricewaterhouseCoopers asked Aramark to remain neutral while workers decide whether or not to have a union. Aramark has responded by intimidating and interrogating workers. Workers at PricewaterhouseCoopers continue to persevere, refusing to give up until Aramark honors their request. For this Easter event, they will be joined by Aramark workers who are currently on strike at Bank of New York, and their fight at PwC reflects a city-wide worker struggle against Aramark.
Workers have asked PricwaterhouseCoopers to intervene, but their calls have gone unanswered. Workers and clergy will stand together to show that even in times of hardship, our faith remains strong, and our struggle for justice will continue.