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Loyola Aramark Workers Vote Overwhelmingly in Favor of Authorizing Strike

Nicky Andrews | The Phoenix

An overwhelming majority, 97%, of Loyola Aramark union members voted in favor of authorizing a strike, as Aramark has denied their demands for higher wages, 40-hour schedules and a guarantee in health insurance during layoffs, according to a message from the union.

The April 11 vote came following April 7 contract negotiations between the union and Aramark, in which Aramark didn’t meet the union’s demand for higher wages and improved benefits for employees. Aramark did offer a $1.75 hourly wage increase, less than what union advocates argue is needed for workers to better support themselves. 

Dione Moore, Aramark higher education central region district manager, declined to comment on the negotiations.

Following the release of a report by UNITE HERE Local 1, the union which represents Loyola Aramark employees, union members and student organizers began advocating for the workers. The report found on average Aramark employees make $17,000 a year, well below the estimated living wage in Chicago. 

The union said the pay increase it’s requesting would only cost Aramark two hours of their annual profit. In 2021 Aramark as a company yielded $12 billion in profit, according to their earnings reports. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Aramark made more than $16 billion in 2019.

During the initial negotiations Aramark also declined the union’s request for guaranteed health insurance during layoffs, a pension for workers and a guaranteed 40-hour weekly schedule. 

In interviews with The Phoenix, Loyola Aramark employees said when they were laid off due to the pandemic they lost their health insurance benefits, and that these benefits weren’t immediately reinstated when they returned to work when dining halls reopened. Workers also said when they were laid off due to the closure of de Nobili dining hall for repairs during the fall semester, they had their health benefits cut once again. 

Aramark pays Loyola Dining employees for 37.5 hours of work every week, not counting daily 30-minute lunch breaks as on the clock. During interviews workers advocated for a change in this policy, as often they find themselves on-site for more than 40 hours weekly.

In October 2021, dining workers at DePaul University and Northwestern University — both represented by UNITE HERE Local 1 — signed new contracts which increased their hourly wage to $19.88, after workers at both universities voted to initiate a strike.

More negotiations between union members and Aramark are set for March 14, with a potential strike looming.  

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