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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Sodexho Workers Present Card to Chancellor's Office

A group of six Sodexho Food Service workers from UC Davis gathered at Mrak Hall late yesterday afternoon to present a card to Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef.

The card was an enlargement of a card that was signed by a majority of Sodexho Food Service workers.

It read:
"I already work at the University, now it's time I work for the University."

"By signing below, I affirm that I support University employment with AFSCME Local 3299 membership for myself and my co-workers because it's better for all of us, our families, students, and our community."
The cards were signed over the past few months and this week, they were signed by over a majority of the workers.

The chancellor was not available. However, Executive Vice Chancellor Bob Loessberg-Zahl met with the delegation of six Sodexho workers, most of whom Spanish was their first language.

He patiently and politely listened for nearly 20 minutes to each of the workers relay their concerns and experiences. He took extensive notes and promised to relay the information to the chancellor.

Recall the picture from last week where the Sodexho workers met with former President Bill Clinton and the President pledged his support to help in their struggle for university jobs.

One of the stories that was told to the Mr. Loessberg-Zahl was the consequence for the lack of health benefits. The gentleman two people to the right of the President is a man named Joe Moreno. Mr. Moreno could not make it yesterday because he is in the hospital. He has a serious heart condition and is prescribed two heart medicines which are extremely expensive. Because he cannot afford insurance, he has only been able to take one of those heart medicines. Right now he has an enlarged heart. Because of its weakness they cannot shock him back into sinus rhythm, so he is laid up in the hospital and they are hoping at some point he will get strong enough so that they can shock him. An individual with health insurance would not be in his position today.

Directly to the right of the President is Esther Juarez, who was with the workers yesterday. You may recall her tale. As the result of an emergency procedure, I believe an appendectomy, and the fact that she did not have health insurance, she owes $45,000, a debt that she will likely never be able to repay.

The fight for affordable health insurance is literally a fight between life and death. These individuals work hard for low pay. Having affordable health insurance can mean that they can get preventative medicine, it means they will be more productive, and it means that a simple emergency will not put them into tremendous debt. In the case of Joe Moreno, it could mean the difference between life and death.

For me this is a struggle about the most basic of human rights and human dignity--the right to fair pay for a hard day's work and affordable health insurance. We were standing in the office of those making hundreds of thousands of dollars and all I could think of is that the women I was standing next to could have easily been my mother-in-law, the grandmother of my future children. The woman who sacrificed so much so that her children could have a better life. So that her daughter, my wife, could go to college and not have to be worry about such indignities.

It seems like such a simple thing and it seems to easy to dismiss. Last night, all I could think about was Joe Moreno and how happy he was to have gotten to meet the President. However, proud they all were to be standing there that day. And to think that now he's in the hospital fighting for his life, I really cannot put words to describe how I feel. For those of you who believe this is just about a union trying to get power by organizing a few hundred workers, think again. Think how you would feel if this was your loved one or even yourself.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting