No ‘snow day’ after ‘decisive victory’ for lunch workers

No ‘snow day’ after ‘decisive victory’ for lunch workers

PAWTUCKET – The city’s school lunch workers said they achieved “a decisive victory for all women who feed the kids and the fight for equal pay” after agreeing to a new contract with food service provider Aramark last week.

The pay gap for local lunch workers, all women, will “dramatically shrink” as they receive $1.20 in raises over three years,” said the workers in a release.

“After these lunch workers courageously called attention to this national problem, Aramark Educational Services and the city of Pawtucket demonstrated that they wanted to be leaders in solving this problem,” stated the release.

The agreement, a new three-year deal covering the 81 school lunch employees, was reached last Thursday afternoon in an effort to prevent a one-day strike the school lunch workers had planned for Friday. School officials were planning to treat Friday like a snow day if the strike went forward with their strike. The Breeze reported earlier last Thursday that the lunch workers had struck a tentative deal with Aramark on Monday of last week.

The workers voted unanimously on Sept. 8 to strike if needed.

Melanie Plante, a truck driver based out of Jenks Junior High School, said lunch workers would “proudly be serving” students last Friday.

“This new agreement will help all of us improve our lives and raise healthy, happy families,” she said.

Carolyn DeOliveira, lead cook at Nathanael Greene Elementary School, said union members “have worked hard to earn more and to maintain their health benefits. I am really proud to call myself a Pawtucket school lunch worker.”

The 81 school lunch employees previously said they earn 76 cents for every $1 earned by a male doing comparable work. They weren’t estimating how much that gap has been closed with the new agreement.

“We were able to significantly reduce our wage gap,” said DeOliveira. “Along with major improvements to other workplace issues, we consider this new contract a total victory.”

The union originally prepared the comparison of 76 cents for women to $1 for men by using available data of the Pawtucket school support staff positions that are primarily filled by men (custodians) and the pay rate data members have for local school lunch members. The figures compare the hourly pay rates.

The local lunch workers are represented by Unite Here, Local 26, a Boston-based union representing 9,000 hotel, food service, airport, and casino workers across Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

“We are pleased that the parties were able to come to a negotiated settlement and avoid any interruption in service,” said Supt. Patti DiCenso.

School Committee Chairman Gerard Charbonneau applauded the union and Aramark for reaching an agreement and ensuring that “students will continue to have the services they deserve.” He apologized to parents and students “for any uncertainty or inconvenience that this situation may have caused.”