Planet Princeton

Princeton Cafeteria Workers Go on Strike

princetonpublicschoolsCafeteria workers in the Princeton Public Schools are striking today to protest employer Nutri-Serve’s unilateral change of terms of employment that workers say included a slashing wages and benefits.

The strike involves 20 workers at six public schools.Workers say the strike is a last resort after attempts to negotiate new employment terms failed.

The strike began at 6:30 a.m. and will continue all day. Workers will join together for a rally at 10 a.m. in front of Princeton High School.

Nutri-Serve Management won the contract to manage the district’s food service program in June. One of the reasons the company was chosen was because it serves healthier food, something several parents lobbied for.

The cafeteria workers say they were told that they would continue working for the district, but they weren’t informed that their working terms and conditions would be changed.

Without bargaining with the union or informing workers of the changes, Nutri-Serve slashed the workers benefits. The company eliminated paid holidays, and paid jury duty, and cut slated wage increases in half from 40 cents to 20 cents an hour, workers say. The company also reduced the number of uniform shirts provided to workers.

Nutri-Serve has said the company had to cut benefits to keep the food services program within budget because of rising costs.

The union for the cafeteria workers says it is unacceptable for a new contractor to come into the workplace and slash the terms and conditions of the cafeteria workers without informing the workers or negotiating in good faith with the union. 32BJ SEIU has filed unfair labor practice charges against Nutri-Serve. The union represents 10,000 workers in New Jersey.

 

Krystal Knapp

Krystal Knapp is the founding editor of Planet Princeton. She can be reached via email at editor AT planetprinceton.com. Send all letters to the editor and press releases to that email address.

  • Sandra J. Bierman

    It would be nice. Parents could wake up a little earlier and prepare nutritious meals for their kids instead of purchasing lunches from a corporation that pays a little over minimum wage but without benefits such paid sick days. Parents should get involved and stop the board from negotiating with unethical companies that only profit, profit, profit…another Walmart, just a different name. PPS should know that sometimes choosing cheaper can backfire.

  • Martha Friend

    I am a PHS alum, JW and LB parent and LB teacher. Our superintendent also failed to mention the sick day pay elimination in his letter to parents. This group of workers are a part of our school communities and to allow them to treated in such a manner is NOT the Princeton community I know. My letter to NutriServe will go out tomorrow stating that my three children will not purchase any lunches until they choose to treat their workers in a fair and equitable manner.

  • Another PHS Alum

    I am a PHS alum, and parent of a PHS student, and I concur with the remarks above of “PHS Alum, CP Parent.” I was dismayed to receive the communication from Superintendent Steve Cochrane this morning that seemed to defend the corporation’s behavior (we are told the workers are making at least $9.15/hour–is that supposed to make me feel better about their unethical behavior?). If they don’t restore the cut benefits, PPS should not do business with them when it is time for contract renewal.

  • PHS Alum, CP Parent

    I
    support these workers taking action. It takes courage to stand up for
    yourself and it would have been easier for many of these folks to go to
    work as usual rather than stand out in the cold. The cafeteria workers
    have been very helpful in managing my elementary school child’s food
    allergies and I have also been impressed with how well these staff know
    our kids (by making an effort to get to know some of these workers, I
    have obtained insight from their observations into the some of the
    social dynamic in the lunchroom that could come from no other source).
    I do appreciate the school district’s move to a new contractor to seek
    healthy food options, but it is not healthy for my child to be served
    by people who are not being treated fairly by their employer. I do not
    think pay for sick, holiday and jury duty time should be eliminated,
    and especially without notice to employees and/or consult with the
    union. I would like the cafeteria workers to be able to responsibly
    take a sick day if they are sick and I believe it is important for our
    diverse community to be represented on juries. I understand the contract the district signed with the provider this summer is for one
    year. I hope and expect the district will consider the value of these
    workers and negotiate the next contract to include terms that assure
    that the workers that serve our children are treated with respect and fairness.

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