Employed by Chartwells, the one hundred workers serve in the dining halls of Wentworth Institute of Technology, Massachusetts College of Art and Design, and Massachusetts College of Pharmacy—all part of the Colleges of the Fenway collaborative.
The one hundred workers will receive substantial pay increases, lower-cost heath benefits, and numerous other improvements to their working conditions.
Workers went to management at the start of the academic year in 2013 with majority support for the Union and demanded recognition. Colleges of the Fenway cafeterias are next to Northeastern University, whose 400 cafeteria workers joined Local 26 in 2012, and Simmons College, where workers won their contract earlier this year. Workers at nearby Wheelock College are currently negotiating their first contract with Sodexo.
Workers at Simmons first shared the idea of the Union to their sisters and brothers who work at the Colleges of the Fenway. They often take the T together and talk about work. Sometimes, they live in the same neighborhoods.
“We work so hard for our students, but we were really suffering,” said Stella Cosby, a cook at Simmons College. Cosby and her co-workers began reaching out to workers in the area. She said it wasn’t easy , but it helped that the Simmons crew could speak from experience. They’d done it first.
“We knew it couldn’t stop with us,” Cosby added. “We explained that we think we deserve to be treated with respect and dignity and to have better working conditions, and that we could have that through a union.”
Edith “Tiny” Figueroa, a barista at Simmons College, was there when Colleges of the Fenway workers cast ballots to vote in their new contract.
“I really believe that we can raise the standard for food service workers across Boston and Massachusetts. We serve food at some of the nation’s best schools. We deserve better,” she said.
“I’ve been a cook at Wentworth for more than 20 years, “ said Thertilo Blanc. “I’m so glad that we now have a contract that gives consistent wage increases, vacation and sick days, better benefits, and a grievance procedure. We have a voice.”
UNITE HERE Boston’s Local 26 represents 7,000 workers in hotels, campus cafeterias, convention centers, Fenway Park and Logan Airport. Visit their Website at Local26.org.