Recently, a group calling themselves “Students for Workers” has surfaced here at Lehigh. Under that name, they submitted a letter to the Brown and White which looked to galvanize support amongst Lehigh students for Sodexo employees to join the SEIU (Services Employees International Union).
Who are these students? Well, it’s tough to tell from the letter. One thing we do know though – these students obviously think that they are quite important. Despite having absolutely no role in the Sodexo-Employee-SEIU triangle, they felt it was appropriate for them to make demands of the other bodies. To quote:
“In order to improve the situation, we wish to hold a meeting in which students, faculty, staff, and workers can speak openly without Sodexo management present. We feel that their presence would only serve to intimidate workers. We request that you issue a written statement to all Sodexo workers at Lehigh, informing them that in the interest of upholding free speech on our campus, you endorse campus workers’ right to discuss their working conditions at our open meeting. Due to the severity of the problem, we implore you to take action quickly. We respectfully request a response to this letter within the coming week.”
There’s no doubt that these students feel righteous in their support for the abused and alienated workers that Sodexo employs. And that’s great for them. However, it creates several issues which need to be addressed.
First, the condescension of these students is insulting to Sodexo employees, and should be insulting to the rest of us, as fellow Lehigh students.
Once the letter was published, several Sodexo employees immediately commented online. One employee, identifying himself as Paul wrote:
“WE, the general employee staff at Lehigh, are sick and tired of Austin (that’s the little twerp bothering people everywhere on campus) and his pathetic gang constantly badgering us about union this, union that. Enough’s enough. When is it going to end?”
While this is just one example (there are others in the same comment section), it highlights an important and obvious fact: these students have little idea what they are talking about. Employees live their lives everyday, and many of them have been doing so since long before any of us arrived at Lehigh. They know how things work, and some like it, some don’t. You will find that at any job, but with all students having seen some of the same smiling faces this year that we saw as freshmen, it should be apparent that working at Sodexo isn’t that horrible.
Ultimately, it is up to the workers to decide that. From the responses so far, it is apparent that the “Students for Workers” organization wanted to see an inequity, found one, and started a crusade. In the meantime, they are completely disregarding the (quite valid) opinions of Sodexo employees such as Paul who don’t want the SEIU butting into the conversation, let alone a gang of ignorant students. It is quite evident from this is that these students feel that they are more competent not just to act for Sodexo employees, but to think for them as well.
Students at large should also be insulted by these “Students for Workers.” The unionization of Sodexo employees would likely drive up operating costs for Sodexo, and in the process drive up Lehigh’s already questionable dining prices. While these students may be willing to pay more to dine, they are campaigning for everyone else at Lehigh to do the same.
All of this is being done in the name of the typical liberal mantras of unionized workers creating a paradise for the working class and finally having a society with “social justice.” What they miss though, as usual, is reality. Unions are the same overbearing oppressive entities that liberals see corporations to be. Unions create agendas, bring politics into the workplace, and in general create more problems than solutions for everyone involved. They drive up unemployment by restricting the labor supply through their demands for higher wages.
Are unions worth it? That’s a case by case decision, and everyone has his or her own opinions. Specifically with Sodexo and the SEIU, neither you nor I knows if it is a good fit for a union. Ultimately though, it must be the employees choice to take action. By “intervening,” the “Students for Workers” organization has displayed both condescension and ignorance. Sodexo employees are more than capable of taking care of themselves, or asking students for help if needed. Unsolicited “help” which openly disregards some Sodexo employees’ wishes is extremely disrespectful to our dining staff, and a disgraceful display of arrogance by these supposedly intellectual students.