MPS, food service workers reach tentative deal, averting a potential strike

Minneapolis Public Schools and its food service employees have reached a tentative deal on a new contract.

The district and union — Service Employees International Union Local 284 — announced the tentative three-year agreement Thursday afternoon after around 35 hours of mediation.

The announcement comes two days after union members filed a 10-day strike notice. Earlier this month, 98.5% of union members voted to authorize the strike.

RELATED: MPS food service workers hold first mediation session Friday

“The contributions these staff provide to each school community and the district are invaluable, especially to our students who depend on their hard work to get the tasty, nutritious meals they need to fuel their bodies and healthy growth,” Superintendent Ed Graff said in a statement. “SEIU employees have been key throughout the pandemic, serving on the front lines distributing millions of food boxes for students in the early days of the pandemic and throughout distance learning.”

“I’ve been on many negotiating teams, and this is the most exciting contract we have ever won. We believe this contract shows that we are appreciated by MPS and the Culinary Wellness Services (CWS),” Tilly Gitchuwa, a 26-year food service coordinator at FAIR and Wellstone schools, said in a statement. It was so amazing to have the support of all of our union members. I’m so proud of our union, from the overwhelming turnout for the strike vote to everyone sticking together. We are a mighty, mighty union. I’m so excited this TA was able to win something for everyone, from new employees to those of us who have been here for decades.”

According to the union, the deal includes a $1 wage increase in the first year, 75 cents in the second and other additional increases for long-term employees; retroactive pay for all of the gains; $2,000 cash payments in the second year and $1,000 in the third year; improved life insurance, long-term disability, vacation accrual, retirement security and personal days.

The union says its members will vote on the tentative agreement early next month, after the district’s spring break.

The district is continuing to negotiate with teachers, who were striking for the 10th day on Thursday.

RELATED: Minneapolis teacher strike enters day 10, St. Paul teachers ratify new contract