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Sodexo Protests Continue After Arrests

By Andrew Calkins May 13, 2011

The UW student coalition to "Boot Out Sodexo"—a coalition of campus groups lobbying to cut the UW's contract with controversial food service giant Sodexo—was evidently undeterred after their sit-in on Wednesday got them arrested. On Thursday, the group, about 60 students, was back confronting interim President Phyllis Wise face-to-face at a Board of Regents meeting at Gerberding Hall.

Morgan Currier, one of the group's members who was arrested Wednesday, said members of the coalition asked Wise at the regents' meeting: "Why did they arrest us, rather than talk to us?"–to which Wise. Currier says, either "ignored the question" or argued that the students weren't actually arrested.

On Wednesday, 50 or so students had staged a sit-in at Wise's office to protest the university's concessions contract with Sodexo. Sodexo  has a five-year concessions contract at UW athletic facilities that ends  in June 2012. The Kick Out Sodexo Coalition has been lobbying the university to cut the contract with Sodexo based on allegations of worker and human rights abuses. Other students have waged similar sit-ins across the country.

After about six hours, the administration made the decision to arrest 27 of those students. They were cited with trespassing, then promptly released.

Currier, one of the group's members who was arrested and cited with "misdemeanor trespass" around 8 pm Wednesday, said that Wise's failure to act "put us in this situation where we had no choice" but to take drastic action.

I asked Norm Arkins, Vice President of UW's Media Relations, whether the UW had any intention of compromising with the students. "I think you need to ask the students if they want to compromise," Arkins responded, saying the UW was not "prepared to severe a contract that has one year left" based solely on allegations. He said the university had taken due diligence in investigating the allegations of human rights abuses around the world but there were not a lot of "eyes on the ground" to verify the student's allegations.

Currier said the group would continue to push the university to terminate their contract with Sodexo in the coming days.

The arrests has created some buzz around the web, including a Seattle Times article with accompanying video footage.

Sodexo responded to the allegations on its website earlier this year, essentially dismissing the claims—low wages and strong arm anti-union tactics—as a "smear campaign" orchestrated by the Service Employees International Union, which is trying to unionize the company.
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