On Wednesday May 11th 50 University of Washington students sat-in President Phyllis Wise’s office to demand we cut our current $3.4 million contract with Sodexo Intl, a documented human rights abuser. These 50 students, and many more that were outside, represented the 19 different student organizations that composed the Kick Out Sodexo Coalition. We collaborated on a rigorous 7 month campaign to make UW’s administration aware of these injustices, to educate UW students about the issue, and to demand that we stop doing business with Sodexo.
On Thursday May 19th, 22 students from the coalition staged another sit-in, this time at the University Athletics Department. The second sit-in was accompanied by a rally of over 80 students, and resulted in more student arrests after administration were unwilling to terminate the university's contract with Sodexo.
After 7 months we had been ignored, lied to, and avoided. It was about time that our voices were heard (after all, we’re paying the tuition!).
The UW administration chose to arrest 40 of its students before engaging in any actual conversation.
More info at: www.ouramericangeneration.org/blog
We engaged in a peaceful protest inside the office of Interim President Phyllis Wise to express our severe disappointment in her failure to cut the $3.4 million concessions contract with known human rights abuser Sodexo by the coalition’s May 10th deadline. Students have been voicing their concerns over the UW’s relationship with Sodexo for seven months now, only to be met with acts of bad faith and misdirection on the part of President Wise. As such, we were prepared to stay in the President’s office until Wise has agreed to terminate Sodexo’s contract with the UW.
The sit-in was about changing the business practices of the 21st largest employer in the world and the largest collegiate food services provider in the United States. At the beginning of the school year, students presented Wise with documentation from independent watchdog organizations such as Human Rights Watch and TransAfrica Forum revealing Sodexo’s consistent lack of respect for basic human rights as evidenced by payment of poverty wages, disregard for freedom of association, highly unsafe and unhealthy work environments and other violations in countries like the U.S., Columbia, Guinea, Morocco and the Dominican Republic.
It’s now up to President Wise to do what her students, faculty, and community leaders have asked of her for over seven months: termination of the Sodexo contract.
As we have emphasized all year, contract cuts are the only proven and effective means of sending corporations a strong message that their human rights violations are not acceptable. This success is illustrated in past campaigns such as those against Nike and Russell Athletic, where a series of contract cuts lead to the reopening of factories and severance pay. By refusing to do business with Sodexo, we are also sending a clear message to both Sodexo and other corporations around the world that their unjust labor practices will never go unnoticed. We are here today to both improve working conditions and to improve the University we are all proud to be a part of.
According to the University’s Vision Statement “we are compassionate and committed to the active pursuit of global engagement and connectedness” and seek to educate ourselves as leaders of integrity and responsible citizens. As students at the University of Washington, an institution characterized by leadership on social responsibility, we are asking that President Wise once and for all acknowledge that business relations with Sodexo are contrary to both the University’s standards and our values. Therefore, as students at the UW, we will stop at nothing less than full termination of Sodexo’s business with the UW.
UW Kick Out Sodexo Coalition