SEIU v. Aramark: On the Mark and On the Move

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is on the mark in organizing the growing army of service workers in the US, and is on the move in sharp contrast to the industrial unions that have been stalled and subverted by anti-union legislation and massive offshoring (see “The Fight of Our Lives: The War of Attrition against U.S. Labor”).

On the Mark

The SEIU has launched a national organizing drive at Aramark, the nation’s leading provider of food management and other services for businesses, colleges, schools, convention centers, hospitals, parks and sports arenas, and prisons.  Aramark is a global company with customers in 18 countries including Belgium, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Korea, Spain, United Kingdom, and Mexico.  The company reported revenues of $11.6 billion in 2006 and awarded multi-million dollar salaries and bonuses to its top executives.

As a global company that reaps mega-profits from the exploitation of poor, minority, and predominately women workers, Aramark is an appropriate and ripe target for unionization.  Because of its global reach, the SEIU organizing drive has serious implications for countless working people at home and abroad.  With 1.9 million members, SEIU has proven its ability to organize workers who have historically been considered economically marginal and the most difficult to reach.  A victory at Aramark could be critical for service workers everywhere.

On the Move

The SEIU kicked off its Aramark National Week of Action on Saturday with a rally and solidarity march in downtown Houston, Texas to end poverty wages and demand affordable health care for the more than 1,000 Aramark workers who clean facilities and prepare and serve food at major government and corporate institutions across the city.

The rally/march was a spirited family affair:

Click to enlarge.

The Aramark National Week of Action continues throughout this week with events across the country:

  • From New York City, protesting Aramark workers and their supporters joined the big march to the company’s headquarters in Philadelphia on Tuesday, November 13th;
  • In New Jersey, active Aramark workers also sent a contingent to join the Tuesday march in Phildelphia;
  • In Orange County, California, Aramark workers at the Honda Center rallied on Tuesday night for a living wage at Aramark’s concession stands before the Mighty Ducks took to the ice;
  • At the Los Angeles Convention Center on Wednesday morning, Aramark workers who operate concessions at the center and their supporters will hold a rally during the center’s biggest annual event, the LA  Autoshow;
  • In Portland, Oregon, Aramark workers who operate concessions at the Portland Center for the Performing Arts will join with supporters on Saturday, November 17th to rally for a living wage and respect on the job;
  • In the Chicago Loop, hundreds of Aramark workers will demonstrate against poverty wages and the lack of affordable health care at Aramark corporate cafeterias and at universities;
  • In the Chicago suburbs, hundreds of school cafeteria workers and janitors employed by Aramark will come together to protest the lack of health care and dignity on the job and to demand an end to poverty wages.  They will also call on Aramark to provide quality services to Illinois schools and their employees.  Workers and supporters will also conduct outreach to members of a national organization of school boards;
  • In Pennsylvania, Aramark workers and students will leaflet on college campuses.

The SEIU organizing drive at Aramark offers a golden opportunity to show working-class solidarity in the face of corporate ascendancy and to announce the resurgence of the union movement in the US.

For more information about what you can do and news about activities in your area and across the nation, go to

Richard D. Vogel is a political reporter who monitors the effects of globalization on working people and their communities.  Other works include: “The NAFTA Corridors: Offshoring U.S. Transportation Jobs to Mexico”; and “Transient Servitude: The U.S. Guest Worker Program for Exploiting Mexican and Central American Workers.”   Contact:

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