Campus "Food Fight" Ends in Student Victory
College's Negotiations with Sodexho-Marriott Break Down Amid Prison Controversy
Olympia, WA.-- Students from Evergreen State College declared victory today in a two-month long struggle to keep a catering company tied to the for-profit private prison industry from taking over the school's food service contract. In July, administrators announced that the college was in final negotiations with Sodexho-Marriott Services (NYSE: SDH) over a 7-10 year contract, however those negotiations broke down on Monday amid growing controversy and threats of a campus-wide boycott.
Evergreen is just the latest in a series of confrontations between Sodexho-Marriott and college students, who claim that the company's violations of workers' rights and relationship with scandal-ridden Corrections Corporation of America make it an unfit provider of campus dining services. A May 30, 2000 analysis by Merrill Lynch identifies Sodexho-Marriott as the 48%-owned subsidiary of Paris-based Sodexho Alliance which is, in turn, the largest investor in prisons for profit through its 17% stake in CCA and 9% stake in sister company Prison Realty Trust (NYSE: PZN).
A national campaign launched on April 4 by a group calling itself Not With Our Money has been followed by the resignation of CCA founder "Doc" Crantz from the Sodexho Marriott board of directors, and loss of a Sodexho-Marriott contract at the State University of New York at Albany, where a coalition of labor and prison activist staged a sit-in to protest mistreatment of workers, private prison investments and the schools use of sweatshops. According to organizers, the campaign has received broad support from students, and has recently been endorsed by the United States Student Association and the Canadian Federation of Students.
Private prisons make up the fastest growing segment of the U.S. prison and jail population, which will reach two million in the coming year according to a report by Justice Policy Institute. Reports of widespread abuse in facilities run by Corrections Corporation of America and Wackenhut Corrections, including guard brutality, denial of medical care and retention of prisoners beyond the time required by law, have led to calls for a ban on private prisons.
Evergreen professor Peter Bohmer is convinced that student and faculty objections to the Sodexho-prison connection killed the contract. "A large part of the Evergreen faculty, students and staff at this college find it morally reprehensible to buy food from a corporation so closely connected to the use of prisoners for profit, and we made that clear in a major rally last week. This victory is 100% due to student organizing, and to administration and company fears of massive protests in the Fall."
Senior Malka Fenyvesi concurs, "Students at Evergreen have a long history of standing up for social justice. We know it's people our age who are getting locked up in record numbers. We're not going to stand by while Sodexho tries to profit from their misery.
For further information visit www.nomoreprisons.org/front.htm
What's your opinion on private prisons and their lobbyists who keep trying to expand the prison population? Tell your views to The Progress Report:
Page One Page Two Archive Discussion Room Letters What's Geoism?