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U46 food service workers get new contract

Updated: March 6, 2014 6:33AM

After working for nearly a year and half without a contract, the approximately 240 food service employees in Elgin School District U46 will soon have a five-year deal.

The school board unanimously approved a tentative agreement Monday night, pending final review by the district’s administration and attorney. Members of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73 ratified the contract last Thursday, with 95 percent of the membership voting in favor. The food service employees have been working without a contract since June 30, 2011.

Jeff King, U46 chief operations officer, said the proposed five-year agreement calls for eliminating the “step” system and moving food service workers out of U46 health insurance into one provided through the SEIU.

Terri Barnett, SEIU Local 73 director and chief negotiator, said big issues the union pushed for and received were annual pay raises tied to the consumer price index and maintaining the definition of a full-time employee.

The previous contract stated that a full-time employee is someone who regularly works six hours or more per day or 30 hours a week. Barnett said the bargaining pushed back attempts by the district to raise the figure to more than 30 hours a week.

Barnett also said she is pleased to include 80 additional food service workers from U46 elementary schools in the new contract.

In the past, only employees from the middle and high schools and the district commissary were considered eligible to be a part of the SEIU bargaining unit. A ruling by the state Labor Relations Board allowed the elementary food service workers to be added.

U46 board President Donna Smith praised both the administration and the union for their efforts to cut a deal. “I want to thank the union representatives for all their work to get here,” Smith said.

Barnett said she was proud of her team. “These ladies were not ready to back down,” she said.

“Two-thirds of my bargaining team had never been to a bargaining table before.”

Barnett added that the majority of food service workers have been with the school district for 12 years or more.

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