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Say Yes to Our Children, No to Privatization
There is an ever-present injustice in the kitchens and halls of our public schools. The injustice is called outsourcing and ARAMARK and ServiceMaster are two of its most heinous purveyors.
ARAMARK and ServiceMaster both began their respective contracts with Houston Independent School District (HISD) under Dr. Rod Paige's Superintendence. ARAMARK was brought in to manage the Food Service Department and ServiceMaster, the Custodial and Maintenance departments of HISD. The two outsourcing agencies both have a long history of inequitable treatment of workers and fiscally unsound managerial practices. They have not made their endeavor in HISD an exception to this tradition.
ARAMARK has severely cut our kitchen staff all over HISD and substitute kitchen staff has been eliminated almost completely. When one of the food service attendants is sick, the rest of the employees are forced to make up the work, without getting extra pay. Furthermore, many formerly full-time employees have been cut to four hours a day. Four hours is not enough to support one person, much less a single mother with three children. Do you want your tax dollars spent on paying people so little that they are forced to work two jobs?
They have also affected the quality and quantity of the food that your children eat. Before ARAMARK was in place in HISD, the children were served a whole apple as part of their lunch; they are now served only half of one. Prior to ARAMARK, they were served the whole head of broccoli, now only the stems. Before ARAMARK they were served a variety of entrees, including many that were prepared and cooked in the school kitchen. Now most of the food comes pre-prepared and suffers from comparatively poor quality. Because of the diminished quality of the food, participation in school lunches has decreased and-to combat this dwindling participation-many schools have begun serving both pizza and hamburgers twice a week. Wouldn't you like for your children to be offered a variety of quality foods?
They have also begun a program in many low-income schools where the children, most of whom are on free lunch (their meals are funded by the federal government), are served breakfast during class time. Before this program and at other schools the children that want breakfast at school are served before class. At these schools, the children are served in class regardless of whether or not they want the food. The food that is not eaten is thrown away and the district pays ARAMARK whether they eat it or not. This is a flagrant example of a private institution manipulating the system for their profits.
To make matters worse, because the children are served breakfast during class time, time is being taken away from their studies. As stated before, this program is being introduced in schools that have a high ratio of low-income students, those schools that have historically tested lowest in academic performance. Therefore, the students that should be getting more class time are getting less.
Another example of privatization within our schools is the appearance of progressively more vending machines on campus. Some schools even have them in the cafeterias, which is a violation of a regulation set forth by the Federal Department of Agriculture. The children purchase soft drinks or junk food in lieu of healthier alternatives, and again our children's health is sacrificed in the name of corporate profits. The ubiquitous logos on the machines also help to ensure that the new generation will continue to buy their products.
ServiceMaster has engaged in their share of inequities, as well. During the last school year, the custodial and maintenance departments, both managed by ServiceMaster, lost a total of $2.8 million; to offset the loss, they laid off many custodians and maintenance workers alike. Instead of rehiring the devoted employees when more staff was needed for new schools and projects, they brought in outside contractors to fill the positions. Among these contractors is Aztec, who was brought in to fill the custodian positions at two new High Schools, West Side and Cesar Chavez. The district looked past Aztec's policy of not giving their employees a full forty-hour workweek so as to avoid paying health care. Some might find irony in that this inequitable treatment is going on in a school named after Chavez, a union leader and staunch advocate of worker's rights.
ServiceMaster has also taken the responsibility of changing the air conditioner filters away from the maintenance department and given it to the custodial department. Changing the air filters in a large school is a somewhat labor-intensive job and, because the custodians already have a full workload, the task is postponed or, in some cases, never taken care of. Houston has one of the highest rates of asthma in the country and it seems that ServiceMaster is trying to make sure that it stays that way. Not only is this an inequity against the school employees, but this is also a case of profits taking precedence over our children's health.
It is also relevant to point out that neither ARAMARK nor ServiceMaster has fulfilled what they were employed to do. Their respective contracts were first begun as a means to improve the financial status of the district; their contracts were not begun to correct an existing problem. HISD handled these matters internally without any problems before they began outsourcing. As a result of poor budget management, ARAMARK cost HISD $4.5 million over the past two school years and, as mentioned earlier, ServiceMaster cost the district $2.8 million over the past year. Despite the treatment of workers, ARAMARK and ServiceMaster are quite obviously inept in what they were employed to do.
The contracts with ARAMARK and ServiceMaster were begun in 1997 and 1998, respectively. While they are both five-year contracts, they must be renewed yearly, as stipulated by state law. HISD Board Members, who are elected officials, will vote for the renewal or revocation of the contracts. Because of this, we have the ability to discontinue their contracts before the new school year starting in the Fall.
Both ARAMARK and ServiceMaster's contracts were begun with Houston ISD under the administration of Dr. Rod Paige. He has since left his position as HISD Superintendent, to serve as the Secretary of Education under President George W. Bush, and we feel that his legacy of inequity should leave as well.
Both of these corporate menaces have a long track record of inequitable treatment of employees, putting profits before people, and incompetence in budget management. As voting citizens of the city of Houston we CAN make a difference. Send a letter to your Board Member and tell him/her that the contracts with ARAMARK and ServiceMaster must be discontinued. Tell them that the problems of outsourcing far outweigh the benefits. Tell them that you refuse to vote for a Board Member that supports outsourcing. Tell them that you don't want your tax dollars supporting a corporation that thrives on the oppression of the people working in our schools. The practice of using public money for private profit is unacceptable and must be stopped!Contact information for the Board Members as well as a map separating the members into districts is available at http://www.houstonisd.org/board. If you would like to join us in the fight against injustice, call us at 713-863-9877or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Food choices grow inside Pentagon
by Michael Norris
Pentagram assistant editor
Beginning early this month, Pentagon employees will begin noticing a change in dining options inside the building, courtesy of the Department of De-fense Concession Committee.
While subject to change, this graphic shows an approximation of where new food outlets will be located in the Pentagon. For updates, consult the web site listed in the article. (Courtesy graphic)
The ARAMARK Corporation, which has provided food services to the Pentagon for 30 years, is being replaced by the Navy Exchange Service Command, that has contracted with several organizations to establish a set of fast food restaurants throughout the building.
The change, said Jeffrey A Keppler, senior food services specialist for the command, will bring a host of brand-name food proprietors to the Pentagon, giving people more choice in what they eat and drink.
"We want to provide the standard for what people can get on the outside," Keppler said, explaining that under the new system employees won't have to leave the building to find their favorite food outlet.
Familiar eateries scheduled to grace the building include McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Subway and Sbarro.
Specialty snack shops like Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts, Au Bon Pain and Baskin Robbins will also be a part of the mix.
Already established regional chains included that don't have a wide Washington presence include Togo's Great Sandwiches and Manchu Wok.
Also in the Pentagon will be a series of in-house restaurants run by Compass Group EUREST, which provided food service at the Winter Olympics and serves the dining needs of such corporate entities as Microsoft and Southwest Airlines.
These in-house restaurants will include The Fresh Grille, Trattoria, Market Carvery, Out Takes and Menutainment.
The last entry is designed for those who like a little flourish with their nourishment. Menutainment will feature chefs whipping up multi-serving portions of stir-fry, pasta, paella and other concoctions in full view of customers.
The wide variety of offerings provides more than just fast food, according to Keppler.
"You'll be able to get fresh salads, meat, potatoes, gravy and green beans," he said.
"We're hoping on picking up a lot of folks who have been brown bagging or going out to lunch," he added.
The new outlets will replace existing cafeterias in the Pentagon.
The Pentagon Dining Room along Corridor 10 will remain open, as well as several snack shops run by the Virginia Department for the Visually Impaired that are in the building.
The new food service vendors have been hiring many ARAMARK employees, so Pentagon workers will still be seeing many of the familiar faces that have greeted them across food counters in the past.
Some cafeterias will continue operating in their current format, with the Navy Exchange taking over management from ARAMARK, until the replacement facility is complete.
Each outlet's pricing will be equivalent to what customers can find at the same outlet inside a 3- to 10-mile radius, Keppler said, adding the restaurants would be setting their own hours of operation.
The restaurants will be set up in several distinct areas in the Pentagon. The largest collection -- including Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Subway, KFC, McDonalds, Market Carvery, Manchu Wok, Togo's, Menutainment, Baskin Robbins, Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks -- will be located in the Corridor 10 food court.
A second grouping -- Out Takes, Market Carvery, Subway, KFC Express, Trattoria, Menutainment, The Fresh Grille and Au Bon Pain -- will be located in what is called the 234 food court.
This portion of the new food service is scheduled to open first while the rest of the outlets will open gradually throughout the year.
The BC Café, located between the B and C Rings between Corridor 7 and 8, will have a Starbucks and Fresh Grille, both of which will operate 24 hours to better serve nocturnal workers at the Pentagon.
The precise location of other food outlets in the Pentagon restaurants can be determined by accessing the Web site: www.whs.pentagon.mil/foodservice/.
The site is currently under construction, but is expected to be up in the next week or so.
Fairly or unfairly, fast food can sometimes be associated with unhealthy eating.
As a result, the Pentagon's DiLorenzo TriCare Health Clinic's Fit to Win Clinic is sponsoring the course Fast Food Follies to help Pentagon workers make good choices when eating out.
The next Fast Food Follies course will be offered March 11 and 12 in Room MGA4. For more information, call the Fit to Win Clinic at (703) 692-8898.
Navy Lt. Kwang Kim, clinic dietician, said Taco Bell had tried introducing low-fat versions of its menu items and Subway had capitalized on a customer who had lost weight consuming its sandwiches.
You can eat healthy at fast food restaurants, he said, "but you have to choose wisely."
Army Sgt. John Rex, who works in the Office of the Deputy Secretary of Defense for Information, Technology and Communications, said he's happy to see familiar brands coming to the Pentagon.
"The food in there is ridiculously overpriced and [soldiers] don't get anything extra for living in a high cost of living area," he said.