Jimmy and Sung have been running their coffee cart at Loyola Marymount University for years, and they are beloved by the student population. Unfortunately, college food conglomerate Sodexo is trying to force them out. LMU student Marc Papakyriakou has taken to reddit to spread the word and garner support against Sodexo in hopes of saving the coffee cart. Here is the story in his own words, taken from the reddit post:
They’ve run the coffee cart on campus for five years now and are beloved by almost all of the students on campus. They often worked from early morning to late at night, providing everyone from coffee, tee, and muffins to clementines, boba, and cider. The coffee cart is their livelihood. They are not only hard working, but also kind to all of the students who go to them and are seen as members of the community. Ask any recent alum about the coffee cart and you would be sure to get a smile and a small story.
Yesterday the student body received news that the catering company LMU has contracted, Sodexo, has decided not to renew the coffee cart’s contract despite their popularity with the student body. Their contract originally came up for renewal in december of 2012, but Sodexo convinced them to agree to month-to-month extensions until July of 2013, assuring that it was completely normal procedure. They had in fact been specifically directed for a Sodexo official to visit in August 2013 to sign renewal. Instead, before August even came, the couple was given a termination agreement that Sodexo stated was fully within the range of their contract. At no point before or during the seven month period was there any mention to them that Sodexo was planning to change their dining options. Sodexo reneged on the contract agreement an in a breach of business ethics clearly kept information from the couple which would have allowed them to plan for their future. Sodexo plans to replace the unique and individually run coffee cart with a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. It is another example of a big corporation (Sodexo earned 1.2 billions dollars of profits in the past year) trudging on the livelihoods of kind and hardworking people.
The official statement released by the school states that it is a decision to “best serve the community”, and that it is an opportunity to bring kosher foods onto campus. It even states “Many schools operate Coffee Bean Tea and Leaf franchises on their campuses.” But at no point were the wants of the students ever considered. We don’t want to be like every other campus. We want to keep our coffee cart that is a unique part of the culture and spirit of our campus. We want our school, a jesuit institution, to live up to the standards it has set for itself: Be socially just, open to small groups, caring, and loving. This is barely represented in the “compensation” the couple is being offered: an opportunity to work for the Coffee Bean cart as hourly wage employees. This is barely due compensation and amounts to forcing them out of business and hiring back in a demoted position (no longer owners, but workers under the jurisdiction of a large brand name). If they are going to be hired back anyways, why not just allow them make the sought after changes and stay in charge? The most probable reason is financial kickbacks from Coffee Bean, but the school would never come out and say that.
I believe that Sodexo specifically chose this time, the middle of the summer when school is not in session, to conduct a “middle of the night” termination to minimize the student outcry. If there was some forward announcement that the contract was not to be renewed, students would have had time to organize and state their opposition and possibly prevent it from happening. If this was their plan, it has failed, as a Facebook group called “Save the Coffee Cart!” was created and has seen an immediate response, growing to 2100 members overnight (over a quarter of the student population).
All I ask of you Reddit is to spread this story and hold Sodexo and LMU accountable for their actions by bringing attention to them. Sodexo, a company whose ethical principles are “Loyalty; Respect for people; Transparency; Business integrity” has exhibited none of those by their recent actions. LMU, an institution founded upon Jesuit principles is violating its own principle of “the promotion of justice”. An institution is defined by its actions, and not principles.
Please, help us bring true justice.
If you feel so moved, you may want to contact Sodexo or LMU about this story.