Yet again, I ask the question – at this turbulent time in our history isn’t there something better that Congress can do?
Now the House Republicans are trying to cancel a contract with Sodexho because it’s parent company is French. From today’s Washington Post:
Fifty-nine House members signed a letter sent yesterday to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld urging the cancellation of Sodexho’s dealings with the Pentagon, which include an $881 million contract to feed U.S. Marines at 55 facilities, according to the letter’s author, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.). “My colleagues and I abhor the idea of continuing to pour American dollars into a French based firm,” the letter says.
To which Sodexho replied, in effect: Whaddaya mean “French”?
True, Sodexho, which is headquartered in Gaithersburg, is the U.S. subsidiary of Sodexho Alliance SA, an international catering giant based in a Paris suburb. But the company has 110,000 employees in the United States, including more than 4,000 in Kingston’s home state of Georgia, noted Leslie Aun, Sodexho’s U.S. spokeswoman.
“I think members of Congress will reconsider, once they understand that this type of action puts the jobs of their constituents — a large number of their constituents — at risk,” Aun said. “If you want to take aim at a foreign government, you shouldn’t shoot American jobs in the process.”
Therein lies a story about the animosity toward the French government among supporters of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq — animosity that runs so deep, according to Kingston, that getting fellow House members to sign his letter has been “easier than giving away money.” (All of the signers were probably Republican, his office said last night, though that was because he worked his GOP colleagues first and sent the letter once word began leaking out.)
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who represents the Montgomery County district where Sodexho is headquartered, took the threat seriously enough to circulate a counter-letter intended to discourage support for Kingston’s appeal.
“If the foreign governments that disagree with U.S. policy toward Iraq should respond in a similar fashion by canceling contracts with American companies, many more American jobs and companies would be at risk,” he wrote.
In a phone interview, Kingston contended that fears of job losses at Sodexho’s U.S. operations are “absurd” because the same people working for the company at Marine facilities could simply take jobs with an American contractor. But Aun retorted: “We’ve got managers who have pension plans — they’re just going to go work for some other company? Give me a break.”
One of those managers, Steve Mangan, a chef who works at a Sodexho facility at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., said: “I’m a little insulted that people think we’re becoming French. We think of ourselves as an American company.”
Asked if his facility serves snails, he said it doesn’t, but admitted, “We do have some croissants.”
It’s so easy to bash the French and win some quick political points. If House members are so worried about who we send money to and who supports us, perhaps they should dig a little deeper. How much business do we do with Russia, who are accused of selling GPS jammers to Iraq? What about Saudi Arabia, the home of the vast majority of the September 11 terrorists? China? Germany? C’mon. Spend your time more wisely.