Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Saturday, December 15, 2018

Firing of Aramark worker sparks social media uproar

Ana Ebanks claims she was fired because she missed 40 minutes of work

Firing of Aramark worker sparks social media uproar

Aramark workers tell their stories with 2016 alum Carlos Vera during an April 20 rally for workers' rights. Another rally will be held on Sept. 6 to demand that Ana Ebanks be reinstated in her position.

An Aramark food service employee was fired Friday after allegedly missing 40 minutes of work to attend classes at AU’s Washington College of Law, according to Carlos Vera, a 2016 AU graduate and the founder of the workers’ rights campaign Exploited Wonk.

Vera said he is acting as the unofficial spokesperson for Aramark workers after promising that he would continue to help advocate for them, including speaking to the media on behalf of workers due to language barriers they may face.

Vera shared the story of Ana Ebanks, who worked as an Aramark employee at AU for the past ten years, in a Facebook post on Sept. 2. Since then, the post has been shared over 1,200 times, and has received over 2,000 likes.

University officials declined to comment on the situation, and referred The Eagle to Aramark administrators. Through AU’s contract with Aramark, workers are employed directly by the company, and are not employees of the University.

Karen Cutler, Vice President of Corporate Communications for Aramark, said in a statement that the recent information that has been circulated on social media is “inaccurate and incomplete with many key facts omitted.”

“We respect and value our 270,000 dedicated associates around the world and their countless contributions, including those serving at American University,” Cutler said in an email. “We are committed to treating every associate fairly and appreciate students' interest in our colleagues and welcome the chance to respond to questions.”

Ebanks, a D.C. resident for the past 13 years, moved to the city after fleeing her home country of Honduras due to violence, Vera said. Ebanks was a public defender in Honduras, and hopes to become an attorney in the U.S., according to Vera.

“She fled the country to survive and then came to the United States and started working at AU foodservice,” Vera said. “Two years ago I interviewed her and she broke down. She was like ‘Carlos, I haven’t lost the hope of being an attorney.’ ”

At that point, Vera worked to connect Ebanks with the Washington College of Law, where she was granted a full-ride scholarship by University officials to the masters of law program, while still working full time for Aramark.

According to Vera, prior to the start of classes Ebanks had made a verbal agreement with her Aramark supervisor that would accommodate any overlap between her class schedule and her work schedule.

During her first week of classes beginning Aug. 29, Ebanks missed 40 minutes of work while she was in class. Despite the alleged accommodation that had been made, Ebanks was fired during a meeting with her supervisors on Sept. 2, which Vera claims was because of the 40 minute absence.

“The problem with her schedule is the majority of her classes are during the night, right? So that she can work and then go in at night. But there is a class that interferes with her [work] schedule,” Vera said. “She talked to the supervisor like ‘Hey, I’m going to take my lunch break while I’m in class,’ you know, and the supervisor did not object to it. She did that, and then she came back and she had a meeting this week because Aramark wasn’t happy.”

Cutler said that though Aramark tries to accommodate employees’ schedules when setting work shifts, its collective bargaining agreement with the union UNITE HERE, which represents Aramark employees, prohibits the company from entering into individual agreements with associates once the semester is underway to change their hours or permit them to leave work during a shift. Instead, if a worker cannot commit to the set hours in their current position, they can apply for another open position that better meets their needs.

“Unfortunately, workable alternatives are not possible if an individual chooses not to apply for another open position to meet their scheduling needs, or leaves work without permission during a shift which creates problems for co-workers and the consumers we serve,” Cutler said in a statement.

Although Aramark fired Ebanks, her scholarship with the law school remains in effect, according to Vera.

Ana Ebanks is also the mother of Josselyn Ebanks, the Aramark employee who was escorted off of campus on Jan. 28. Both Ana and Josselyn have been vocal regarding workers’ rights in the past, leading them to become targets of Aramark supervisors on campus, according to Vera.

“I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that the mother and daughter, two people who are very outspoken, that were at the rallies, that spoke out at town halls, somehow have been targeted,” Vera said.

Within 24 hours of Vera’s announcement of Ebanks’ termination, the hashtag #justice4ana and @aramark became the biggest trends on Twitter in the Washington D.C. area, with students and others voicing both support for Ebanks as well as frustration with Aramark.

A Justice4Ana Rally will also take place tomorrow, Sept. 6, at 4 p.m. on the steps of MGC.

“If you look at it in this sense, it’s not like she’s out doing something else,” Vera said. “Like she was in a class and they fired her after she’s been there a decade.”


ikaplan@theeagleonline.com and tmaher@theeagleonline.com

Correction: The story originally listed 32BJ SEIU as the union representing Aramark workers. The post has been updated to include that UNITE HERE is the union.


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