On Monday, members of the Labor Initiative in Promoting Solidarity and other student supporters as well as a faculty member, gathered in the lobby of Peggy R. Williams Center and then walked up to the third floor to submit their proposal to President Tom Rochon. I was the one designated to hand the proposal to the President. I approached the secretary and said, “We are here to deliver the proposal to President Rochon.” She responded, “He told me some of you might come, but I didn’t think there would be so many of you.” She said she could take the policy, and then I asked if Mr. Rochon would come out so we could deliver it to him personally. She said he wasn’t in the office, so I then handed it to her, thanked her and everyone exited.
LIPS wrote a proposal focusing on their All Campus Living Wage campaign, which asks for a living wage for all on-campus Ithaca College employees. The proposal includes dining service workers in this campaign because LIPS claims the College has the responsibility to concern themselves with these workers’ rights because IC chose Sodexo to run its dining services. LIPS emphasized in their proposal that to be truly sustainable, the College must recognize social sustainability. In this document, LIPS asked the President to respond with a written reply regarding their proposal and to set up a meeting with the organization.
On Tuesday, members of the Labor Initiative in Promoting Solidarity and other student supporters linked arms in the Pub and held a silent demonstration to reflect Sodexo’s media policy. Students wore outfits resembling the dining service workers’ uniform and held a poster of Sodexo’s new media policy and held flyers for people to take explaining the demonstration. Sodexo recently changed their media policy after Service Employees International Union filed an unfair labor charge with the National Labor Relations Board. Though the new media policy makes clearer workers can speak openly to the news media unless acting on behalf of the corporation, the language, LIPS argues, is still extreme. LIPS believes there is an atmosphere of fear created by Sodexo managers to discourage workers to speak out.
On Wednesday LIPS’s hosted Carina Mieses, a Sodexo gold mine worker from the Dominican Republic, at Ithaca College to speak out about her experiences as part of Kick Out Sodexo’s Sodexo Truth Tour. Carina spoke about workers in the gold mine were given no bathroom or meal breaks. She said Sodexo did not provide workers with proper safety equipment, recalling co-workers who cut their hands or fingers off due to not receiving protective gloves from the company. Carina mentioned various other abuses and then talked about the low wages she received from Sodexo. As a single mother, she said she struggled raising her eight-year-old daughter. She said when she injured her ankle on the job, because Sodexo did not provide her with proper boots, she received no pay for the 21 days of her healing process.
On Thursday, LIPS members performed a flashmob in the Campus Center Dining Hall. Students stood up and sang popular songs with a lyrical twist. The students had background music blasting from a boombox—everyone in the dining hall froze to watch.
Below are the lyrics to the songs:
(To Fuck You by Cee Lo Green)
You know we want a living wage
for the workers we love
and we’re like don’t you? (ooh, ooh, ooh!)
They say that our tuition money
just isn’t enough
and we’re like says who? (ooh, ooh, ooh!)
We say that they need health care
and the right to organize
That’s a human right (human right!)
And though the fight may be hard
Workers rights we will guard
and so can you (ooh, ooh ooh!)
(To Firework by Katy Perry )
‘Cause baby they do hard work
and a living wage is what you’re worth
They deserve their ri-i-ights
So come and join the fi-i-ight
(To Dynamite by Taio Cruz)
I throw my hands up in the air sometimes
What’s with (up?) Sodexo?
We just want you to uphold worker’s rights
I’m sayin’ ay-o
We’re gonna make some noise
We’re gonna rally all night
We’re gonna help these workers
Fight for their rights
We’re gonna inform IC
We’re not gonna let you slip
You’re not gonna get away
Without hearing from LIPS!
On Friday, members from the Labor Initiative in Promoting Solidarity and other supporters convened on Free Speech Rock to rally for workers’ rights. Nearly 25 students showed up for the rally. After a few speeches were made, students marched toward the Peggy R. Williams Center, which houses administrators’ offices. IC politics professor Zillah Eisenstein spoke here encouraging students to keep fighting to achieve the living wage for IC’s dining service employees. She said students, who are in-debt themselves, should not have to bear any costs if workers received a living wage, as there are other IC employees who can bear the costs if Sodexo refuses. LIPS members Kiera Lewis and Laura St. John held up a stick to show how much the lowest paid administrator makes (approx. $130,000) all the pay down to the lowest paid dining service worker (approx. $13,000). Students then continued to march to the Women’s Community Building downtown where they gathered with other members of the community for the Tompkins County Worker’s Center’s A Rally for Something We Can Win: Economic Justice and Sustainability for All. Here, multiple speakers discussed workers’ rights, specifically discussing the living wage situation at Ithaca College. Kiera and Laura wrapped up the event and thus the “Week of Action” with a speech about how LIPS’s members will continue the fight for fair treatment of IC dining service workers.