Food service workers protest contracts
Jeniece Roman – General Assignment Reporter
The food service workers at Southern are protesting the terms of a new contract with Chartwells.
“We hope to get Chartwells back to the negotiating table and get them to negotiate a fair contract that does not lower peoples standard of living,” said Connie Holt, secretary treasurer of the Unite Here Local 217, a food service union.
Holt said Chartwells, a subsidiary of Compass group, has provisions in the contract the will lead to layoffs and loss of health insurance benefits.
“It’ll make a big impact on our lives. A lot of people that are New Haven residents, their life will be affected with this decision,” said Nicholas McDonald, shop steward and the lead organizer of the “No Contract, No Peace” protest.
McDonald said he has been a food service worker at Southern for 21 years and a steward for 15 years. He said contract negotiations formally ended a few months ago, but the workers want more hours, stability in schedules, and better health insurance.
“[We want] to get the attention of our bosses to let them know we’re not just going to idly sit and not do anything,” said McDonald.
According to the Request For Proposal: Management of Dining Services, it requires that 20 percent of food service employees are students.
McDonald said the original percentage of student employees required was three percent and that the change would mean students would go from having 150 to 700 hours per week, and several more workers will be laid off.
Initially, the proposal would be implemented September 2016, which would mean 18 people would be laid off, but Holt said Local 217 told Chartwells that the increase should be phased in.
“We said that’s not fair,” said Holt. “We’re willing to work with you on this, we’re willing to work with the college on this but you can’t devastate people’s lives.”
Chartwells shut down negotiations and continued implementing the proposed cuts but Holt said Local 217 hopes to return to the negotiating table and get Chartwells to negotiate a fair contract.
“They are imposing their last proposal involuntarily on us,” said Holt. “We hope that they won’t create a problem. That they will come back to the table and have those tough discussions, but at least negotiate and not shut negotiations down.”
According to Holt, Chartwells would have received savings from implementing the proposal in the beginning of the semester, but didn’t because the changes were phased in. Holt said because Chartwells never received those savings, they would get it elsewhere: through wage freezes and cuts in health insurance benefits.
“Right now I got a heart condition and if they cut back my insurance now, it’s going to be so much money out of my pocket. I’m not even going to be able to pay for it,” said Pamela Gray, union steward for Local 217.
Gray said she has worked in food services at Southern for 25 years. She said the health insurance benefit cuts affects the worker’s families as well. McDonald said they have been working with students for years and see fellow workers as family.
“We’re here for the students, we’re here to provide good quality service,” said McDonald. “We have workers, kids that attend the school so we are all family.”
Photo Credit: Jeniece Roman – General Assignment Reporter