The Hastings Public Schools food service workers returned to work this past Thursday after the school board approved their tentative contract agreement and strike settlement agreement.
The strike, which began on Feb. 7, officially ended when the workers’ union, Service Employees Industrial Union (SEIU) Local 284, came to a tentative agreement with the district on March 23. The workers voted to ratify the agreement the following day, and the school board hosted a special meeting on March 29 to seal the deal and approve the agreement.
According to the district, the terms of the agreement amount to “essentially the same” as what they had offered in their last, best and final offer made before the strike on July 1. The contract includes a 2.1% increases to the salary structure, an increase in hourly rate for payout of unused sick and essential leave from $14.50 to $16.50 per hour, and a commitment from the district to keep their health and dental insurance contributiuons the same.
The district will also be raising the amount of money they put toward the purchase of footwear from $125 to $150 per year, and workers will be receiving a one-time lump sum payment of $800.
Union representatives say that while this contract agreement doesn’t meet the marks they were after, it is “ultimately above the district’s last offer.”
Sara Rapp, SEIU Local 284 steward and food service worker at Hastings High School, shared her thoughts about the agreement.
“While this agreement does not reflect what we feel we are worth, our struggle for recognition and respect took a big step forward because of our solidarity. Now we have a better contract than we otherwise would have gotten without our fight. Hourly school workers across the state are fighting to win more for staff and students, and our strike was an important part of that fight” Rapp said.
Kelly Gibbons, executive director of SEIU Local 284, echoed Rapp’s sentiments, commending the food service workers for the “amazing solidarity” they displayed. In a statement, Gibbons challenged legislators to find a way to divvy out more money for hourly school workers in order to end the kind of conditions that catalyzed the strike in Hastings.
“Legislators must create a living wage for hourly school workers and provide the funding to pay for it. There should not be tax breaks for the wealthy while hourly school workers around Minnesota, like the Hastings food service workers, are in crisis. Staffing shortages and high turnover in these critical positions are because of low wages that we need to end once and for all,” Gibbons said.
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