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Food Service Workers At The World Bank Announce Picket Line

51% of Compass workers surveyed at the World Bank reported being late on rent in the past year because they didn’t have the money to pay on time.

Watch April 6 press roundtable with Compass food service workers and union officials.

Washington, DC – UNITE HERE Local 23 on Thursday released the results of a survey of 76% of the Compass workers who staff food service at the World Bank that detail ways workers struggle to afford necessities like food and housing. Workers are in negotiations for new union contracts that keep up with the cost of living and additionally announced a picket line action on the Compass-operated cafeteria at the World Bank on Wednesday, April 12.

UNITE HERE is in negotiations with Compass Group for workers in cafeterias at several high-profile DC locations in addition to the World Bank, including the Smithsonian, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the National Institute of Health, Freddie Mac, pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, American University, Catholic University of America, and George Washington University, among others.

“Compass cafeteria workers feed some of the most prestigious and influential institutions in our nation’s Capital – yet they’re struggling to pay their bills. Compass is the largest food service contractor in the US. Food service workers have been really whacked by inflation, but workers are in a position of power right now to advocate for change. We plan to fight hard to turn these jobs, and all hospitality jobs, into jobs you can live on in DC,” said UNITE HERE International President D. Taylor.

UNITE HERE Local 23 also represents the Sodexo food service workers at the House of Representatives, IMF, the FBI, Fannie Mae, the United States Geological Survey, and others, with negotiations planned for later this year. UNITE HERE Local 23 represents the Compass food service workers at the U.S. Senate.

Report on the picket:

“For 49 years, I’ve been asking for a dollar,” AU food service worker Willie Joiner said at yesterday’s rally for Compass workers as hundreds of chanting UNITE HERE members and their supporters marched in front of the World Bank. “I was working at AU, I would bring home $47 a week to feed my child. Forty-nine years, I’ve been waiting on that dollar. I saw it at the table this year. I saw it, but I’m going to tell you right here that that doesn’t feed my grandbaby. That doesn’t pay my rent. I will not wait another 49 years.” The local workers were joined by busloads of UNITE HERE members from locals 25, 54 and 100. The workers are demanding a $20 per hour minimum for Compass workers who serve elite clients in DC. Compass cafeteria workers “serve the powerful people in buildings right over here behind me like the World Bank,” said UNITE HERE Local 23 President Marlene Patrick Cooper. “At this big annual spring meeting that’s going on right now, they’re serving drinks to folks who are trying to eliminate global poverty while we’re out here to make sure that we’re not getting poverty wages. It’s a joke. World poverty; let’s take care of home first, Compass.” Father Brian Jordan of St. Camillus Church led the crowd, shaking their fists and fingers at the World Bank, chanting  “Shame on you! Shame on you!” – report/photos by Chris Garlock

UNITE HERE survey of Compass workers at the World Bank

UNITE HERE surveyed 76% (108 out of 142) of the Compass cafeteria workers at the World Bank about their experiences over the past year. The employees surveyed work across many functions of the World Bank cafeteria, including cooks, cashiers, baristas, utility workers, servers and waiters, runners, catering workers, and receivers.

Asked about their experiences in the last year, 51% of Compass cafeteria workers surveyed at the World Bank reported being late on rent because they didn’t have the money to pay on time, while 11% stayed in abusive living situation because they did not have the money to move.

  • 6% had been evicted;
  • 33% worked a second job;
  • 28% paid a late fee because they couldn’t pay a bill on time;
  • 25% skipped meals because they didn’t have money to buy food;
  • 27% skipped going to the doctor or taking medicine prescribed by a doctor because they could not afford it.
  • 19% had to change their living situation to save money.
  • 70% of Compass cafeteria workers surveyed at the World Bank reported lacking money to cover their rent, mortgage, or other housing costs in the past year, while 50% reported lacking money to pay for food for themselves or their households.
  • 54% lacked money to cover transportation costs;
  • 47% lacked money to pay for utilities;
  • 64% lacked money to cover at least 2 of these expenses.
  • 20% of Compass workers surveyed at the World Bank received public assistance (Medicaid, CHIP, SNAP, LIHEAP, Rent assistance) in the past year.
  • 42% Compass workers surveyed reported the job enabled them to do 2 or more of the following in the past year: cover one or more adult family members on their health insurance; cover one or more children on their health insurance; send money home; give money to a family member so that they could pay a bill.
  • 48% of Compass workers surveyed have children living with them at home. The average number of children is 2.
  • 79% of Compass workers surveyed reported having less than $1000 in personal savings for an emergency.

UNITE HERE Local 23 represents 25,000 hospitality workers from universities and museums, to airport concessions, hotel and parking attendants. Local 23 members are active in Georgia, Mississippi, Charlotte, Nashville, DC, Boise, Indiana, Denver, New Orleans, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Virginia.

UNITE HERE is the hospitality workers’ union in the U.S. and Canada that represented 300,000 workers in hotels, gaming, restaurants and food service, airports, and more pre-pandemic.

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