GAITHERSBURG - US actor Danny Glover and 11 others were arrested Friday at a protest outside the US headquarters of French company Sodexo, which workers accuse of union-bashing and poor working conditions.
Glover was taken away in handcuffs along with the outgoing head of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Andy Stern, former Sodexo canteen cashier Terry Shelley and several others, after crossing a police line outside the US offices of the food services firm.
The action brought together hourly-paid workers, students, and even union representatives from Britain and France who sought to show support for US workers like Shelley, who said she was fired after becoming active in a trade union.
"We're here today to say no more to deplorable pay and working conditions," Glover told the crowd of around 300 as they shouted "No Justice, No Pizza", a reference to cafeteria workers who claim they are underpaid and receive few benefits from Sodexo.
"This is a global corporation with global responsibility and we are going to hold them accountable to that responsibility," said Glover, who has starred in movies including "2012" and "Escape from Alcatraz."
The rally was the latest in a series of protests and civil disobedience actions across the United States against Sodexo, which workers and trade unions accuse of paying an unlivable wage and offering poor benefits.
"Sodexo makes its money by turning good, high-paying, benefited, full-time jobs into low-wage, unbenefitted, part-time jobs," Stern told the rally.
French trade unionist Jean-Michel Dupire said Sodexo "has the means to respond to your demands but it's going into the wrong pockets."
The protesters burst into cheers and began chanting, in French, "Tous ensemble" or "All together."
The protesters said they mounted their series of actions after 16 Sodexo workers were laid off after trying to unionize or becoming involved in union activities.
But Sodexo officials told AFP that the company is not opposed to unionization.
"We can tell you categorically that Sodexo recognizes and respects our workers' rights to join or not join a union as they choose," Sodexo vice president for employee and corporate relations Thomas Mackall said.
"Most of the participants of these orchestrated events have not been Sodexo employees, but rather students and others who have been incited by SEIU," his colleague Jaya Bohlmann said, reading from a statement.
The statement dismissed the demonstrations, which have been held at 11 sites across the United States, as publicity stunts for SEIU, which Sodexo said was trying to edge out other food service unions.
Police Captain Paul Starks told AFP the protesters were cited for trespassing and taken to a nearby police station.
All 12 were released after the protest ended, Renee Asher of the SEIU told AFP.