WASHINGTON, D.C. (AP) - Andre Blount says he's been working at the World Bank for almost 10 years. He claims to have received exactly one pay raise - 50 cents.
Blount, along with his colleagues, are trying to draw attention to a situation that they consider to be a disgraceful one, while leaders from all over the world gather in Washington, D.C. for the spring meeting.
Workers who are putting food on the tables for an organization that is fighting poverty themselves struggle to make ends meet. Union leaders claim that a quarter (25%) of World Bank contract workers who are employed by Compass Group North America as contract laborers receive public benefits like SNAP or food stamps to get by.
Blount, 33 said, 'It is sickening' as he joined union members in red shirts on a picket outside the Development Bank on a hot summer afternoon. They travel the world to find ways to help others, yet you have hundreds in D.C. that are suffering.
Inside, professionals in suits walked through the lobby, where T-shirts with the slogan "End Poverty" and tote bag were for sale.
The cafeteria of the building overlooks a pond indoors and is designed to satisfy even the most discerning palates. The 'Mediterranean Table,' which serves hummus and Tabouli, and the 'Ladle and Crust' soup station are all available. A sushi chef offers made-to order rolls and sashimi.
The bank's fine dining room, which is reserved for diplomats, special guests and other VIPs, hosted a luncheon for the delegations of India, Bangladesh and Bhutan.
It turns out that many of the workers in the food service industry come from countries where the Development Bank sends missions.
Blount says that after 10 years on the job he is paid $18 per hour. This is above D.C.'s minimum wage, which is $16.10. He believes that catering and serving some of the most influential people in the world should pay more than minimum wage.
Blount is a member Unite Here Local 23 and one of approximately 150 Compass employees employed by the World Bank. They are currently in contract negotiations and seeking better wages and health benefits.
David Theis, a spokesperson for the World Bank, said that the staff of the bank has "deep admiration and esteem" for their colleagues in the food service industry. He said that the bank made sure workers were paid during the pandemic.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s ‘living wage’ index lists D.C. at $22.15 an hour.
Starting July 1, D.C.'s minimum wage will be increased to $17 an hour for all employees, making it one of the nation's highest. According to Zillow, the increase is due to persistently high inflation that eats away at paychecks.
Unite Here's President D. Taylor told reporters on a conference call that the World Bank's mission was to promote shared wealth by increasing the incomes for the 40% poorest people in each country.
We think it should start in the United States by compensating workers who provide food services here. Despite working hard each day, they struggle to pay for their bills.
Compass Group spokesperson Lisa Claybon stated that the firm was willing to negotiate in good faith, and wanted to reach an agreement. She said that Compass Group has a 'long tradition' of doing what is best for its employees and clients.
Compass employees who work at the National Institutes of Health, Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and Smithsonian are also covered by the current negotiations.
Alex Campbell, the director of the International Trade Union Confederation’s D.C. Office, said that workers across the globe are "suffering from a cost of living crisis they did not cause.
Campbell stated that workers in all parts of the world need to have decent living standards and basic rights at work, as well as collective bargaining. Campbell said that this was true for Compass employees in D.C. as well as workers in projects funded by World Bank Group around the globe.
Blount stated that he believes his job should pay what he is worth. He said, 'If Compass Group were to give me a raise, it would help me save emergency funds and pay my bills on time rather than being late.