University food service, building service workers ratify new contracts, avoid a strike 

A+student+dishes+out+the+seafood+boil+at+LAR%E2%80%99s+seafood+night+on+Oct.+26.+University+food+service+and+building+service+employees+voted+to+ratify+new+contracts+with+the+University%2C+therefore+avoiding+a+strike+authorized+to+begin+on+Thursday.
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University food service, building service workers ratify new contracts, avoid a strike 

A student dishes out the seafood boil at LAR’s seafood night on Oct. 26. University food service and building service employees voted to ratify new contracts with the University, therefore avoiding a strike authorized to begin on Thursday.

A student dishes out the seafood boil at LAR’s seafood night on Oct. 26. University food service and building service employees voted to ratify new contracts with the University, therefore avoiding a strike authorized to begin on Thursday.

Kenyon Edmond

A student dishes out the seafood boil at LAR’s seafood night on Oct. 26. University food service and building service employees voted to ratify new contracts with the University, therefore avoiding a strike authorized to begin on Thursday.

Kenyon Edmond

Kenyon Edmond

A student dishes out the seafood boil at LAR’s seafood night on Oct. 26. University food service and building service employees voted to ratify new contracts with the University, therefore avoiding a strike authorized to begin on Thursday.

By Eunice Alpasan, Staff writer

University food service and building service workers recently voted to ratify new contracts and thus avoid a strike authorized to start on Thursday. 

Food service and building service workers, who are represented by the Service Employees International Union Local 73, held a week-long vote after the union’s last contract bargaining session with the University on Aug. 9. 

The workers’ union chief negotiator Ricky Baldwin was unable to share how the votes were split but said it was “not close.”

The three-year contract agreement means workers will receive a minimum 39 cent raise each year and $150 bonuses for this year and in the third contract year. Parking fees will also be delayed for workers until Jan. 1.

The contract also includes minor changes in the system the University uses to call food service workers in for work during periodic layoffs, which occur during student breaks. Also, building service workers will have more time to put in for positions that become vacant.

“The bargaining team who worked really hard on (negotiations) knows the University has more money that they could have offered us,” Baldwin said. “There’s always a little bit of disappointment. It was a compromise.”

A committee of food service and building service workers and management members was established out of these contract negotiations to further address unresolved issues like work scheduling and periodic layoffs.

Additionally, severe understaffing, particularly in Facilities & Services and Housing, is a major issue that remains unresolved. 

“Some of the anger the (union) members have, disappointment and feelings of disrespect are not going away as long as management doesn’t staff their operations properly,” Baldwin said. “People would like to do their jobs the way they’re trained to do them and the way they’re used to doing them, but they can’t if there aren’t enough people.”

Dena Gary, University head cook and SEIU Local 73 Chapter 119 President, said she is ultimately happy with the outcome of the vote because it reflects what workers wanted. She also said she hopes the establishment of a committee will allow for ongoing dialogue between workers and management.

“I’m hoping management holds up their end of the bargain and actually meets with us because we’re looking forward to the conversation and the outcome of these conversations to make our relationship better than it has been in the past,” Gary said.

Contract bargaining talks between the workers’ union and the University started last November. The most recent bargaining session on Aug. 9 was the first joint session for both food service and building service workers to be facilitated with a federal mediator. 

The workers’ union requested a federal mediator in June to help facilitate bargaining talks. The  presence of a federal mediator, who is a confidential third party, allowed for both sides to speak more freely about proposals and was meant to let management know that workers were preparing for a strike, Baldwin said.

In response to the workers’ vote, University spokesperson Robin Kaler said in an emailed statement that the University is “pleased” the workers’ union voted in favor of the agreement.

We look forward to working together in the years to come,” Kaler said. “This is good news for everyone in the University community.”

Until workers negotiate their contracts again at the end of the three-year period, Gary said all the union can do is stand together in solidarity and prepare to follow the proper procedures necessary in response to any infractions.

“Everyone deserves respect because we are all human beings and that’s all we’re asking,” Gary said. “Respect us and the job that we do because we are essential employees and we would like to be treated as such.”

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