39 Cafeteria Workers join Local 217 in New Haven!

Earnest-Pritchett

Cafeteria worker Earnest Pritchett.

This winter has brought new victories for workers and students in the New Haven public school cafeterias. In December workers overwhelmingly ratified a new contract that paves the way toward fresh cooking.

Following that remarkable agreement, cafeteria leaders headed back into negotiations to address staffing concerns. One of the top issues was unfilled vacancies. For nearly five years, no new workers had been hired into permanent positions. The district had come to rely on substitute workers who did the same jobs as union members, but for substantially less pay and few benefits.    

In negotiations, cafeteria leaders prioritized building a team of permanent workers in every school, and making sure that each school received the hours it needs. In the end, workers were able to secure an agreement that protected the hours of current members and created 39 new permanent positions!

Cafeteria leaders worked with Management to offer the permanent positions to substitute workers who had been working beside them the longest in their cafeterias. These new workers include Evelyn Hernaiz, who had already worked for three years in the cafeterias, and 21 years total in different positions in New Haven Public Schools. Hernaiz explains, “My job really means a lot to me because of the stable hours and benefits. I am glad to have a permanent position because I’ll finally be able to build relationships with the students at my school.”

Earnest Pritchett, another new hire, is also glad to have earned a steady position. He explains that being in the union will be good for him financially, but he’s most excited about the opportunity to work with the students at his school. He said, “A permanent job will allow me to do what I love – teach our students how to make healthy food choices every day.”

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