Erlanger Should Let Sodexo Workers Transition To New Food Service Contractor

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Is Erlanger about to assault the working poor?

Very few in living within the Chattanooga city limits would be able to say they did not know someone who received care from the city’s only public hospital. Indeed many of us were birthed at Erlanger and continue to rely on the necessary medical services they provide. Erlanger is chartered for the public good of providing medical care, but also serves the public good in being one of Chattanooga’s largest employers.

Erlanger’s Board of Trustees on 11/21 will consider a proposal to outsource its janitorial and food service jobs to Aramark.

The move is estimated to save Erlanger $3 million annually while bartering a $10 million kitchen upgrade. On the surface, the move seems logical given Erlanger’s hope to become more profitable. Upon further evaluation there is a huge problem with the treatment plan – workers employed under Sodexo’s 27-year contract are not guaranteed to be hired by the new vendor.

Now, all of the current workers hired directly by Erlanger will automatically transition to Aramark with the same salary and seniority. However, Sodexo employees may face a pink slip. Erlanger should treat Sodexo employees equally as all have overseen nutrition and cleanliness at the hospital. Aramark indicated it would hire additional employees; should not Sodexo workers be guaranteed first position?

The above question is just the tip of the iceberg though. Erlanger has to ensure that its employment policies do not have a “disparate impact” on disadvantaged persons (women, minorities, veterans). Simply put, “disparate impact” is a neutral decision made which has an unjust discriminatory impact. For example, if the employees currently employed by Erlanger are predominately men and those working for Sodexho are majority women, Aramark’s proposed move to only retain the Erlanger employed workers unintentionally has a “disparate impact”.

It is important that the Erlanger Board of Trustees properly diagnose this problem and affirmatively show no disparate impact exists with the approval of Aramark’s contract. Automatically cutting Sodexo employees may result in a sickening position for Erlanger’s bottom line.

Patrick Kellogg

Community Organizer

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