Author: Marii Herlinger, WPJC Intern
Students of Western Washington University are calling for an end to the university’s contract with its food vendor Aramark. Beginning with a petition and letter addressed to WWU’s President Sabah Randhawa and Director of University Residences Leonard Jones in May of 2018, students requested that the university move toward a self-operated dining system. The petition, which was drafted by a campus organization by the name of Students for Sustainable Food, garnered more than 1,700 signatures. The momentum, however, did not stop there—the issue gained enough student support to warrant the creation of a separate committee branching off from Students for Sustainable Food: called Shred the Contract.
Supporters of the Shred the Contract movement have cited several reasons for their urgency in dropping Aramark. Most important, as I believe they would concur, is the food vendor’s strong connection to the prison industrial complex. Operating in over 500 prisons across the country, Aramark profits off of the cheap labor found among a disproportionate number of BIPOC* inmates. Those students speaking out against a renewed contract with Aramark understand the need to abolish this system of white supremacy and racist exploitation.
Western’s current contract with Aramark ends in 2021. Students have taken to Red Square with signs and voices of protest this February, and are engaging in university-officiated forums with their sights set on a self-operated dining service to replace Aramark.
As hopeful as 1,700 petition signatures sound, the prison-industrial complex is a deepset institution — it can be difficult to imagine it going away anytime soon. Being only ever one person at a time, we are apt to feel powerless. But I am uplifted by the thought that within our community, young people are recognizing the power they have to demand reform. They are serving up a much-needed reminder that change at a local level is not only possible but crucial in achieving change on a larger scale.
*BIPOC = Black Indigenous People of Color
(Be sure to follow Shred the Contract on Facebook for updates on events and actions.)
Links for more info & action items:
Direct link to the Shred The Contract Petition:
Info alert for last round of university forums (November 2019): https://calendars.wwu.edu/food-justice-forum
Article from The Western Front about the beginning of the Shred the Contract movement:
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