Food-service giant Sodexo has unexpectedly reversed course after bumping thousands of college cafeteria workers from its health-care plan earlier this year and casting blame on the federal health-care law.
Julie Peterson, Sodexo’s vice president for benefits, said Thursday that the company will make changes for next year to restore eligibility for many of those affected. Although Sodexo said the reversal was part of a standard review of major policy decisions, the company also faced a union organizing drive and campus protests.
French-owned Sodexo is a multinational service company with U.S. headquarters in Maryland. It operates many college cafeterias and also provides other campus services. In January, Sodexo reclassified some of its workers as part-time by averaging their hours over a 52-week calendar year. That affected about 5,000 of its 133,000 U.S. employees.
Sodexo said it was acting to align itself with the health-care law, which requires that employers with 50 or more workers offer coverage to those averaging at least 30 hours a week or face fines.
Peterson said that for benefits purposes, the company will now credit campus employees during the summer break with the hours they would have worked during the academic year.
“We’ve realized we can change the way we are determining eligibility and still remain competitive in the market,” Peterson said.
Unite Here, a labor union trying to organize Sodexo workers, said federal rules require colleges and universities to essentially do the same thing for their faculty employees. But those rules don’t apply to contractor employees in cafeterias.
“There is nothing in there that says contract workers are protected,” said union spokesman Ethan Snow.
General Motors, which has recalled about 20 million cars and trucks in North America this year, added 428,111 U.S. vehicles to that tally, including its redesigned full-size pickups and large sport-utility vehicles.
GM said it needs to recalibrate software that controls the gears to fix the four-wheel drive on 392,459 pickups and SUVs, including the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups from the 2014 and 2015 model years and the 2015 Chevy Tahoe and Suburban. The affected models can switch into neutral on their own, the automaker said Friday.
GM, which said it isn’t aware of any crashes or injuries, has been recalling vehicles more frequently as it faces multiple investigations for its slowness in calling back 2.59 million small cars with ignition problems linked to at least 13 deaths. Since that action began in February, the company has recalled other cars for similar ignition issues, accounting for about 9 million of the fixes.
GM also said it is recalling 29,019 Chevrolet Cruzes from model years 2013 and 2014 to replace the driver’s-side air-bag inflator. Two other recalls were announced Friday. They include 1,939 Chevrolet Corvettes from model year 2014 to replace rear shock absorbers and 4,794 Chevrolet Caprice police cars from model years 2013 and 2014, as well as the 2014 Chevy SS, to replace the windshield wiper modules if necessary.
GM also recalled Buick Excelle sedans in China after regulators found that the high beam can’t be turned off under extreme circumstances. Shanghai GM, the automaker’s manufacturing joint venture in China, will call back 194,107 Buick Excelle GT cars made from Oct. 10, 2009, to July 2, 2012, according to a statement posted on the Web site of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, or AQSIQ.
● Automakers Daimler and Renault-Nissan said they will build a $1.36 billion plant in Mexico to manufacture Infiniti and Mercedes-Benz compact vehicles. The companies said construction of the plant would begin in 2015 in the northern state of Aguascalientes. They said it would produce as many as 300,000 cars a year, with Infiniti production beginning in 2017 and Mercedes in 2018. The plant is expected to employ 5,700 people.
● The U.S. Marshals Service auctioned off about 30,000 bitcoins seized during a raid on Silk Road, an Internet black-market bazaar where authorities say illegal drugs and other goods could be bought. An online auction took place over a 12-hour period Friday for the bitcoins, valued at nearly $17.7 million. It consisted of nine blocks of 3,000 bitcoins and one block of 2,657 bitcoins. The Marshals Service has said it would notify the winning bidders Monday.
● Energy drinks firm Red Bull North America settled a potential civil liability suit for alleged violations of U.S. sanctions against Cuba, the Treasury Department said. The firm agreed to pay $89,775 for filming a documentary without authorization from the Treasury, the department said in a statement.
● The White House said the president will nominate a lawyer with a history in aviation and transportation safety to head the National Transportation Safety Board. Christopher Hart joined the board as vice chairman in 2009 and became acting chairman in April, when former NTSB chief Deborah Hersman resigned. Hart has held high-level posts in the Federal Aviation Administration, including deputy director for air traffic safety oversight and assistant administrator for system safety.
● The parent company of the Showboat Casino Hotel in New Jersey said it will close the Mardi Gras-themed casino Aug. 31. Caesars Entertainment chief executive Gary Loveman said in a statement that the “difficult decision” is necessary to protect the rest of the company’s business in Atlantic City, where it owns four of the 11 casinos. The closing will also shutter the casino’s House of Blues, one of New Jersey’s most popular concert venues. It will be the second casino to close this year in the nation’s third-largest gambling market. The Atlantic Club closed in January, taken down in a bankruptcy sale by Caesars Entertainment and Tropicana Entertainment, which closed it to reduce competition.
● The first launch of Russia’s new space rocket after two decades of development was aborted moments before blastoff, as President Vladimir Putin was watching via live feed. The Angara booster rocket has been developed to replace the Soyuz, a workhorse of the Soviet and then Russian space program, designed more than four decades ago. Angara’s development has dragged on since 1994. Its first launch had been planned for 2005 but has been continually pushed back. Space officials said an automatic safety system aborted the rocket’s blastoff from the Plesetsk launch pad in northwestern Russia for an unspecified reason. The launch was tentatively put off until Saturday.