UNITE HERE Local 26 dining hall workers ratify agreement, win $35,000 and affordable health care in “incredible victory”
Boston, MA—On October 10, UNITE HERE Local 26 members on Northeastern University’s campus ratified a 5-year agreement just hours before they were scheduled to begin a strike.
Workers voted 316 to 2 to authorize a strike on October 4 over a set of demands that was inspired in part by the 22-day strike at Harvard University. A key issue was workers’ low incomes, leading many to rely on public assistance to survive, even if they worked full-time. Health care was the other main rallying point, as workers demanded affordability, citing lack of funds to seek medical care, or reliance on government health care.
The agreement includes wage increases that will bring full-time workers to $35,000 annually by 2019, and a dramatic increase to the number of full-time schedules available. The new contract will provide a total of $5.65 in hourly wage increases to all workers, across-the-board.
On health care, the agreement now provides an insurance plan that is paid for by the employer at 97 percent. In addition, workers were able to maintain access to a platinum level plan with no takeaways.
The new contract provides enhanced protections for immigrant workers, strengthened non-discrimination language including the addition of gender identity and expression, and additional sick days.
A new “snow days” provision elicited cheers; workers will now be able to use personal or vacation time if they are unable to come into work on days the state closes offices due to a blizzard or snow storm. Workers who are able to brave the elements to serve the campus will be paid time-and-a-half.
And, importantly, workers at Northeastern University will join the UNITE HERE Local 26 pension plan, allowing them to begin to accrue retirement benefits.
UNITE HERE Local 26 Lead Negotiation Michael Kramer said:
“With the determination and leadership of the workers and students we have won an agreement that will be life-changing for our members and impactful in their communities. It raises the standard for campus food service workers across Boston whose value and importance in the university community is often forgotten.”
Northeastern dining worker and bargaining committee member Angela Bello said:
“I am so proud of what we accomplished. It’s amazing to feel the power that workers have when we get together and are well organized. The ways this contract will impact our lives is almost hard to believe. Thank you to everyone who supported us and believed in us.”
Second year Northeastern Law student Keally Cieslik said:
“Hearing the news that the workers negotiated a contract they are satisfied with is simply thrilling. Organizing alongside Northeastern’s food service workers and Local 26 has been one of the best experiences of my life.”
UNITE HERE Local 26 President Brian Lang said:
“Our union fights so that our members can have their fair share of the wealth they create. Last year that meant we struck Harvard University for 22 days. This week we threatened to do the same at Northeastern. Next on the list are the 34 Boston hotels where contracts expire in 2018. We commend the Northeastern administration for agreeing to a new standard for dining hall workers in the Boston area that includes $35,000 annual income, affordable health care, and retirement.”
UNITE HERE Local 26 represents nearly 10,000 members working in the hotel, gaming, food service, and airport industries in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. UNITE HERE Local 26 members went on strike for 22-days at Harvard University in October 2016 to win sustainable annual income and affordable health care. More at www.local26.org.