In December, New Haven Public School (NHPS) cafeteria workers—members of UNITE HERE Local 217— voted overwhelmingly to ratify both a new contract and Memorandum of Understanding with the school district. These agreements pave the way toward cooking in schools across the district.
In addition to protecting workers’ union standards, the agreements call for the creation of Cook/Lead worker positions in New Haven’s 44 public schools—an addition of 32 cooks district wide—and establish a pilot program that will bring cooking into an increased number of schools over the term of the contract. Cafeteria workers have worked without a contract since July 2010.
This settlement comes after nearly a year of active campaigning where workers emphasized the district’s overreliance on processed convenience foods and called for a transition to fresh cooking. “I expect my sons to make responsible decisions, and that includes what they choose to put in their bodies,” said Jasanea Hernandez, a member of the negotiating committee and mother of two NHPS students who has worked in school food service for 9 years, “Right now, they cannot make good choices at school because the food we serve in our cafeterias is often highly processed or frozen. We have beautiful cafeterias in nearly all of our schools. It’s time to use them for real cooking!”
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