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Workers from the Detroit Medical Center staged a protest Thursday over the hospital’s plan to outsource housekeeping jobs.

The latest demonstration, the third this week, came a day after U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn ruled that DMC management must postpone signing a contract with food services and management company Sodexo until arbitration over the union’s grievance against subcontracting is done.

The ruling was a victory for members of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 25, said Donna Stern, one of the organizers of the protest. AFSCME 25 represents about 1,500 employees along with the Service Employees International Union, which includes more than 500 housekeeping staff affected by the planned outsourcing.

Between 30-40 protesters gathered Thursday afternoon outside Orchestra Hall, where DMC offices are located.

“We cannot allow a company like Sodexo, which has a proven record of deliberately holding back cleaning supplies, toilet paper and paper towels from the janitors in the Detroit Public Schools, to be responsible for the sanitary conditions in a hospital that serves the majority of Detroit residents,” Stern said.

Arbitration hearings will take place Friday and next week, Stern said.

A lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court on behalf of about 300 employees alleges the DMC wants to avoid bargaining with the union by contracting a new custodial service. Workers fears they’ll lose their jobs or have to take a cut in pay, Stern said.

In a statement Thursday, DMC Chief Administrative Officer Conrad Mallett said when the grievances were filed, DMC requested expedited arbitration so that the fate of the employees would not be unclear.

“DMC has communicated to the unions Sodexo’s commitment to honor current wages, and provide comparable health and welfare plans,” he said. “We feel that Judge Cohn’s decision is exactly what our employees deserve, and that’s to make sure our union leaders settle these issues expeditiously, by mandating the union to cooperate and conduct the arbitrations with an answer before the planned transition date.”

cwilliams@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2311

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