Dozens arrested as hundreds of Aramark workers protested in Center City

Aramark workers held a protest along 24th and Market streets in Philadelphia Wednesday afternoon

NBC Universal, Inc.

Hundreds of cooks, servers, bartenders, dishwashers and concessions workers employed by Aramark protested in Center City on Wednesday, June 12.

The workers, represented by UNITE Here Local 274, gathered on the bridge near the Aramark global headquarters along 24th and Market streets in Philadelphia around 4 p.m., blocking traffic in the area. SkyForce10 was over the scene as the workers held up a 40-foot banner that read “ARAMARK – HEALTHCARE NOW.” An inflatable fat cat was also seen near the workers.

Philadelphia police responded to the demonstration around 5:30 p.m. and began taking some of the protesters into custody.

"Aramark workers from the Wells Fargo Center, Citizens Bank Park and Lincoln Financial Field, joined by Senator Nikil Saval, staged a massive protest today outside Aramark's global headquarters on Market Street. 50 people were arrested after sitting down on Market Street," Members of UNITE HERE Philly Local 274 wrote in a statement.

Senator Saval, a Democrat who represents Pennsylvania's 1st District, was among those arrested and issued a statement as well.

“The labor of UNITE HERE workers is a crucial part of what makes Philadelphia great. They work year-round—in the blistering cold, in the sweltering heat—to ensure Philly’s residents and visitors enjoy the best possible experiences," Saval wrote. "And in return, Aramark has repeatedly devalued their labor, leaving them forced to choose between feeding their families, keeping their homes, or seeking potentially lifesaving medical care. I refuse to let my constituents be mistreated by a wealthy corporation that gets richer every year from exploiting their labor. Their fight is my fight. I’m with them until they’re paid the wages and benefits they deserve.”

Organizers of the protest said food service workers at the South Philadelphia Sports Complex earn significantly less money than stadium food service workers in other major cities.

“Foodservice utility workers at the Cap One Arena in Washington D.C. and United Center in Chicago earn hourly wages of $21.50 and $21.55, respectively, while their counterparts at the Wells Fargo Center earn only $14.11 per hour,” organizers wrote. “Employees who work a minimum of 910 hours per year between the United Center and Wrigley Field in Chicago are eligible for free, year-round health insurance. Only a few of Aramark’s employees at the Sports Complex are eligible for employer-sponsored healthcare despite the fact that hundreds work for Aramark year-round.”

The Aramark workers went on strike for four days in April at the Wells Fargo Center. The union said eligibility for healthcare benefits for year-round workers remains a key sticking point as contract talks between them and Aramark continue.

"I’ve worked at all three stadiums for Aramark here in Philadelphia since 2008 when Aramark took over the contract at Lincoln Financial Field,” said Carlton Epps, an Aramark suite attendant at Citizens Bank Park.

An Aramark spokesperson sent NBC10 a statement on Wednesday's protest.

"We respect the right of our employees to demonstrate. We have had several meetings with the bargaining committee in an effort to reach a new agreement, and we intend to keep working toward a settlement that works for everyone," the spokesperson wrote. "We will continue to focus on delivering an outstanding fan experience for our clients and customers and would like to thank our dedicated employees from around the organization for supporting our ongoing contingency plans."

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