Aramark, the private company awarded the state prison food service contract, is in the news again. No, it's not maggots in food this time, but just as serious violations that could have a major impact on the safety of state prison employees, the communities they protect and the inmates they enforce.
In the four years since the contract was awarded to the private company instead of state employees, more than 300 Aramark employees have been banned from state prisons, many for “unprofessional and inappropriate relationships," as reported by the Columbus Dispatch this week. This is includes a recent accusation of sexual assault. In one report on a lawsuit against Aramark regarding the assault, it was stated that "Aramark knew employees were sexually assaulting Ohio prisoners but did nothing."
“When you hire substandard individuals, you get substandard results. The issues have not gone away,” said OCSEA President Chris Mabe in a recent press interview. “We have a different quality of employee in considerations of security, training and everything else you get, comparatively, between state and contractual employees.”
Aramark was also ordered, last week, to repay over $57,000 after an Inspector General's investigation found the company had overcharged the State of Ohio.
Since the beginning, OCSEA has warned of the security risks of hiring low-wage, untrained employees in favor of qualified state employees.
OCSEA has routinely submitted bids that would bring the food service work back in house for less than the cost that Aramark can provide––with greater security protocols. The most recent bid from the union would save the State of Ohio over $4 million. It was rejected without substantial rationale.
The Aramark contract expires at the end of June, but it is uncertain if the State of Ohio will renew the contract. The Union continues to be very vocal about the need for transparency on this contract and the need for Controlling Board review, which the State has indicated it may forgo. OCSEA is urging lawmakers to demand proper review that is necessary for taxpayer accountability and community safety.