Activists protest against private contractor

02/15/08 Mitch E. Perry
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A little over a year ago, a Florida Inspector General blasted the Aramark Corp., saying the company had made millions in "windfall profits" from savings instead of passing them along to the state's prison system.

The Philadelphia-based company was contracted by the state back in 2001 to provide food service at most of its prisons in order to save the state money.

The report said that because feed rates had dropped, the company was pocketing an additional $4.9 million per year that should have gone back to the state.

However, both the state and Aramark claim that IG report was an internal audit review, and, in fact, Aramark has corrected the complaints made by the report.

Today in Miami, a coalition of lawmakers, union leaders and other activists held a rally to urge the state to further investigate Aramark, and re-bid the exclusive contract to provide meals in the state's prisons.

Bruce Raynor is the general president of UNITE HERE, which represents workers in the food service, hotel, laundry, apparel and textile industries across the country.

WMNF contacted Aramark this afternoon at their corporate headquarters in Philadelphia.

Spokeswoman Christina Grow would not go on tape, but did say that the charges made by UNITE HERE were false. She said the IG report was never officially filed, and the state department of corrections had discovered that Aramark had actually saved Florida taxpayers money.

Grow called the news conference by the union activists a bid to increase their membership.

WMNF then spoke with Gretl Plessinger, spokesperson with the state Department of Corrections, to hear their side of the story.

But a spokesman for UNITE HERE disputed the state's comments. WMNF hopes to follow up on this story next week.

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