Aramark protest

Almost 50 protesters gather outside President Kent Fuchs’ office on Feb. 21 to advocate for better working conditions and wages from Aramark, UF’s food service company. A new coalition plans to protest virtually in light of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Food Justice League was planning on protesting UF’s food service provider on Turlington Plaza this month. That was until concerns from COVID-19 stopped it. 

The league, which is a new coalition composed of six organizations, has canceled plans for protests in its fight to bring “sustainable and equitable food” to UF to limit COVID-19 exposure. Together, it released a list of demands for UF to include in its search for its new food service provider contract and are exploring options to make an impact virtually, said David Goldberg, a recent UF graduate and campus organizer for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Organizations making up the coalition include the Alachua County Labor Coalition, the Farmworker Association of Florida, the National Resources Defense Council, the Young Democratic Socialists of America at UF, Working Food and the Agricultural Justice Project. 

The new food service provider contract is up for negotiation this summer.

The Alligator previously reported that UF’s current food service provider, Aramark, has been accused of wage theft and withholding benefits from employees. Nearly 50 people rallied outside President Fuchs’ office on Feb. 21 to protest the food service giant’s treatment of employees. 

The demands are listed in a letter to UF administration that the coalition published on its website. Among those listed are a $15 hourly pay for all employees, a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions within two years from climate change intensive foods on the menu and a 25 percent increase in purchases from local farms within five years.

“Food Justice League formed because we realized that all of our goals for the university could be streamlined into one food justice banner,” said Ashley Nguyen, who works for Alachua County Labor Coalition and is co-chair of Young Democratic Socialists of America at UF, “for not only workers, but everybody that’s responsible and has a role in the food system at UF.”

With its March 10 protest canceled and as the pandemic continues to play out in the country, Goldberg said they’re looking toward digital ways to have their voices heard. 

“We’ve come to a point where social media has such a strong impact on corporate decisions,” Goldberg said. “A very loud voice, through whatever — it’s a digital one or a physical one, I think it’ll still have the same impact overall.”

Contact Kaelyn Cassidy at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @kaelyn_cassidy.