By Alyssa Schnugg
Story updated at 4:30 p.m. to include Aramark’s response.
On Labor Day, the holiday designated to honor America’s workers, unnamed employees at Ole Miss Dining, owned by Aramark, posted an eight-page post on Instagram citing unfair wages and mistreatment.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the post on Instagram had garnered 3,634 likes and has been shared across several social media sites with readers tagging people, the University and local and national news outlets.
The post went up on Labor Day under the Instagram account “umdiningworkers” and began with, “To the students of the University of Mississippi.”
“For years, we, the Aramark workers of ‘Ole Miss Dining’ have suffered extreme understaffing, grossly insufficient pay and incompetent or uncaring management that prioritized Aramark’s profit over the wellbeing of their employees and the students,” states the post.
The post allegedly represented “a group” of Aramark dining workers who wanted to remain anonymous to avoid retaliation.
The post claimed that employees work themselves to the bone every day to try to keep the university fed, while struggling to pay their bills.
“Aramark makes tens of millions of dollars off of our labor while we’re each forced to perform the work of several employees for poverty or near-poverty wages. Most of us make as little as $8 – $11 an hour, and though we work at the university, we aren’t considered university employees,” the post said.
The post goes on to say that the school’s growth – with the largest freshman class in history this semester – has made staffing issues worse. It claims during Welcome Week the employees were instructed to serve burgers from meat that was a year old and that claims from Aramark of using locally sourced or freshly made food are false.
“Most of it comes in a can from California or New York or Michigan or whatever,” the post claims.
The post alleges that the workers remain where they are because of their dedication to the students, the school community and each other. The post author asks students for help in spreading the word to “push the school and Aramark to prioritize the students and workers over profit.
However, the University of Mississippi issued a statement Tuesday afternoon claiming that most of what the post alleged was false.
“The University of Mississippi is committed to providing a safe and healthy product to our campus community, and we take seriously any claim alleging otherwise,” said a University spokesman.
“Since we became aware of the statement posted to social media, we have worked with our partners at Aramark to investigate the validity of each claim. We have found no evidence to back them up and know some to be false, including those about using outdated products, locally sourced produce and pay ranges.
“We will continue to investigate and work with Aramark to rectify any issues we identify in a fair and timely manner,” stated the University’s response from University Marketing and Communications.
An Aramark spokesperson also denied many of the claims in the social media post and that employees are always welcome to discuss concerns with management.
“The allegations put forth on social media were inaccurate and misleading. We are committed to sustainability, hospitality, and food quality, and offer competitive compensation and benefits packages consistent with industry and market standards. We also offer food service career paths within the company where many have grown from frontline roles into the company’s leadership ranks,” said Heather G. Dotchel, with Aramark Corporate Communications.