Food service workers for Hastings school district file notice to strike

Union food service workers at Hastings Public Schools filed a 10-day strike notice on Thursday, according to a news release from Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 284.

The strike will start Feb. 7 if no agreement is reached prior to that date. As of Thursday, SEIU Local 284 says that there are no bargaining sessions on the table before the potential strike date.

The strike notice comes off the heels of an authorized strike in December. SEIU Local 284 says they have been trying to reach a new agreement since June 9 and their sticking points include a wage increase due to inflation, stable working hours and health insurance benefits.

“We’re united and we’re ready to strike if the District won’t pay us what we’re worth and stop nickel-and-diming us about our working hours and snow days,” Sara Rapp, a cook at Hastings High School and union member, said in a statement.

SEIU Local 284 represents 35 employees in the district.

The district provided 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS with this statement regarding the notice to strike:

The District received formal notification that the Food Service employee group intends to strike.  Under Minnesota law, a union must provide the school district with at least ten days’ notice prior to commencing a strike.  Our understanding is that they intend to commence a strike on February 7, and the District is prepared to continue operations in the event of a strike.  While school will remain in session, food service will obviously be impacted by a strike.   The District will be serving bagged lunches and breakfasts during a strike.  The District will be working with law enforcement to ensure that access to school sites takes place in a safe and orderly fashion if there is a strike and, if necessary, will provide additional information regarding procedures for entering or leaving school grounds at a later date.

As far as the status of negotiations with the Food Service group.  The District and the Food Service group have been participating in mediation with the assistance of the Bureau of Mediation Services.  We last met for a mediation session on December 21.  Following that meeting, another mediation session was scheduled to take place on February 22.  This meeting was scheduled in February due to the availability of the parties and the Bureau of Mediation Services mediators.  We are extremely disappointed the union has chosen to strike because we were hoping the union was planning to provide a realistic counter offer at the February 22 mediation.  The District will continue its efforts to negotiate in good faith and remains hopeful that this situation will be resolved with the assistance of Bureau of Mediation Services mediators.

Due to the nature of mediation with the Bureau of Mediation Services, it is not appropriate to get into the details of what the District has offered in its mediation proposals.  However, what I can say is that the District’s bargaining team has carefully examined internal and external comparables.  When we look at external comparables, we look at the pay and benefits neighboring school districts provide their food service employees.  When we look at internal comparables, we look at contract settlements involving other District employee groups.  The offers the District has made to the Food Service group are consistent with what was offered to and accepted by other groups within our District as well as the compensation for comparable groups outside of the District.

Robert McDowell, Ed.D.