Bristol School Board, Union Agree Labor Rift Is Over

Source: Don Stacom, Hartford Courant, March 22, 2017
 
The once-bitter relationship between the school board and its unionized cafeteria workers has improved enough in the past 16 months to yield a new contract along with words of praise from both sides.  “It’s a massive turnaround from the constant conflict of previous years,” according to Chad Lockhart, president of Local 2267 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Since the 2015 election changed control of the school board, Bristol has abandoned its controversial plan to replace the cafeteria workers with a private contractor. Both sides have dropped their labor board and court fight, and recently settled on a five-year wage and benefit agreement.  “Negotiations between our board and the AFSCME union have been handled with mutual respect and professionalism,” school board Chairman Christopher Wilson said in a statement. …

Related:

Bristol’s New Board Likely To End School Cafeteria Battle
Source: Don Stacom, Hartford Courant, November 4, 2015

Even though the labor-endorsed candidate at the top of the ticket lost, unions enjoyed a victory Tuesday when voters turned Republican school board incumbents Larry Amara and Genard Dolan out of office. Democrats won a six-to-three majority on the board after being out of power since 2011. That virtually ensures the unpopular Republican-led drive to privatize school cafeterias is dead. Democrats have warned that hiring a contractor to run the cafeterias would ultimately prove more expensive, possibly degrade service and definitely lower the value of 53 food service jobs covered by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. … Democrats campaigned on a theme that privatizing the cafeterias might jeopardize the jobs of 53 union workers — mostly middle-class mothers who reside in Bristol. And even if a private contractor kept them on, it was certain to erode the insurance benefits that cover the workers and their families, Democrats said.

Bristol Taking Next Step To Privatize School Cafeterias
Source: Don Stacom, Hartford Courant, July 9, 2015

The new school year begins in less than two months, and there’s no apparent resolution near in the dispute between unionized cafeteria workers and the board of education. The board’s Republican caucus has been trying to hire a private contractor for more than two years to take over the school lunch program, but has been locked in court and labor board fights with the union representing the roughly 50 workers who run the cafeterias. Last year, the school board signed an agreement to retain Whitsons Culinary Group to take over the cafeteria operation, but changed course after a labor board ruling in favor of the union. The schools ultimately kept their own workers on the job. Next week, however, the board is scheduled to open a fresh round of bids from contractors that want to run the cafeterias for the 2015-16 school year. The school board had sought proposals this spring, but abruptly canceled that request and issued a new request that included detailed breakdowns of how many meals are served at each school….The school board intends to receive bids through July 17….


Budget approved for school food services
Source: Susan Corica, Bristol Press, March 12, 2015

The Board of Education approved a 2015-16 budget for school food services in the amount of $2,785,770, which will go on to the Board of Finance for consideration. … In recent years, the board has been in an ongoing battle to outsource food services, which has been dealt several legal setbacks and now appears to be on hold. In May 2014, the school board voted 5-3, with its Republican majority prevailing, to sign a contract with Long Island-based Whitsons Culinary Group, effective July 1, on the premise that Whitsons would not only eliminate the cafeteria services’ chronic financial deficits but make money for the district. The action came after months of protests by parents and the cafeteria workers. The school board had 60 days to void the contract, which happened in the wake of a state Board of Labor Relations’ decision that the board negotiated in bad faith a tentative agreement with Local 2267, the union that represents the cafeteria workers…..

After much doubt, cafeteria workers go to school today
Source: Steve Collins, Bristol Press, August 28, 2014

Children aren’t the only ones returning to school this week. The city’s 53 cafeteria workers, targeted for privatization until they won a key legal battle in June, have also returned. The union president, Chad Lockhart, said the workers, all women, “are among the unsung heroes of the school system.” “They have refused to allow the Board of Education’s reckless pursuit of outsourcing to dampen their commitment to their jobs and to the students they serve,” said Lockhart, president of Local 2267 of Council 4 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers….

Board of Ed asked to drop cafeteria outsourcing
Source: Steve Collins, Bristol Press, August 14, 2014

Critics of the Board of Education’s decision to privatize school cafeterias called on the board Tuesday to drop the plan. …. In dissolving a temporary stay, a judge essentially reinstated a State Board of Labor Relations decision in June that required the schools to honor a tentative deal it struck last year with the union that represents 53 women who work in the school cafeterias. “Our union members have said from the start that outsourcing cafeteria services doesn’t make sense for the Bristol community,” said Chad Lockhart, president of Local 2267 of Council 4 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers.

School board’s cafeteria fight clouds workers’ future
Source: Susan Corica, Bristol Press, July 10, 2014

The Board of Education’s decision to fight a state ruling in favor of unionized school cafeteria workers just further complicates the board’s efforts to outsource the cafeterias, a union spokesman said. The school board this week voted to appeal the State Board of Labor Relations’ decision to side with the cafeteria workers, who oppose the outsourcing plan. ….

City Council declines to take a stand on the cafeteria worker issue
Source: Steve Collins, Bristol Press, July 9, 2014

A sharply divided City Council declined Tuesday to take a stand in favor of the school cafeteria workers who may be replaced by a private food services firm. The council’s three Democrats supported a move to call on the Board of Education to abandon any legal appeals and focus instead on working with the union representing the 53 cafeteria employees who are slated to lose their jobs in the privatization bid….

Whitsons Culinary Group had plans for Bristol’s schools
Source: Susan Corica, Bristol Press, July 3, 2014

Whitsons Culinary Group had plans to invest almost $220,000 in equipment, marketing programs, and merchandising in preparation for taking over school cafeteria services for the new school year. …. The contract Whitsons took effect July 1, however, an order by the state Board of Labor Relations to comply with a tentative agreement reached with the school cafeteria workers before the contract was signed leaves the situation in legal limbo at the moment. …

Board members mull over cafeteria worker agreement
Source: Susan Corica, Bristol Press, June 27, 2014

After a lengthy meeting with its attorney this week, the Board of Education made no decision on a response to the state Board of Labor Relations’ order to comply with a tentative agreement reached with the school cafeteria workers. … Meanwhile, the board has already signed a contract with Long Island-based Whitsons Culinary Group to outsource cafeteria services, effective Tuesday, July 1. “Whitsons is aware of what’s going on,” said Genard Dolan, school board member. “They also received a copy of the report from the state Labor Relations Board.” Back in January the state Board of Mediation and Arbitration granted the Board of Education the right to privatize school food service operations. However, Local 2267 of Council 4 AFSCME, which represents the 53 cafeteria workers, is suing to vacate that ruling….

Workers win food fight: Decision lets 53 school cafeteria staffers keep their jobs
Source: Steve Collins, Bristol Press, June 18, 2014

The city’s 53 cafeteria workers will keep their jobs. A ruling by the state Board of Labor Relations Tuesday said the Board of Education must honor the tentative agreement it negotiated with the union, a deal that the Republican majority on the panel declined to back….It is not clear what will happen with the contract the schools recently made with a private cafeteria operator that hoped to begin serving city students in the coming academic year. Chad Lockhart, president of the Local 2267 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers, which represents the cafeteria employees who feared losing their jobs, said the union is thrilled with the decision. “For two years, school cafeteria workers have been kicked around like a political football at the expense of all Bristol taxpayers,” he said, urging the school board “to do the right thing by the food service workers and all Bristol taxpayers.”…

Discord over handling of privatizing cafeteria operations
Source: Steve Collins, Bristol Press, June 11, 2014

Democrats are angry with the way the Board of Education’s Republican majority handled the privatization of cafeteria operations. “It’s time to throw them out,” Mike Petosa, president of the Greater Bristol Labor Council, said of the Republicans. “They don’t respect our interests. They don’t respect the city’s interests.” On a 5-3 party line vote, the school board last month authorized Superintendent Ellen Solek to contract with Whitsons Culinary Group to take over the operation of cafeterias beginning July 1. The move eliminated the jobs of 53 unionized cafeteria workers….The company officials said they had met this week with workers, but didn’t say anything about their plans for them….

Letter: Watchdog group opposes cafeteria privatization
Source: Donald Cohen, Bristol Press, June 11, 2014

…School service privatization has the potential to leave everyone behind. Schools, workers, kids and entire communities all lose when proper safeguards aren’t included in these contracts, and we have to reason to believe that those protections were taken into account this time….

Opinion: Councilor decries privatization of cafeteria workers
Source: Calvin Brown, City Council (D-1) ∙ Bristol Press ∙ May 13, 2014

I am saddened and disturbed by the recent decision made by the Republicans on the Board of Education to privatize our school cafeteria workers. After the union representing them has made every concession possible, I think the board’s actions show a lack of respect for people’s jobs and livelihood; neglect for our students and, really, our community at large; it shows an overall ineptitude for leadership to allow a private corporation to come into our schools and interact with our children on a regular basis. Whitson’s — the out-of-state company the Board of Education has chosen to contract with — has several law suits pending against them. They have not committed to hiring the current cafeteria workers who will be displaced. We still do not know if the company performs background checks on the employees they do hire — and therefore we will not know who is feeding lunch to our students. Again, I am saddened and disturbed by this….

Ordering out: School board OKs outside cafeteria service
Source: Susan Corica, Bristol Press, May 8, 2014

After months of public outcry, the Board of Education voted 5-3 to outsource the school cafeteria services Wednesday night. The motion was specifically to authorize Superintendent Ellen Solek to execute a contract with Whitsons Culinary Group, as approved by the State Department of Education, effective July 1….

BOE quiet on cafeteria privatization issue
Source: Susan Corica, Bristol Press, April 6, 2014

Opponents of privatizing school food service operations have been vocal at Board of Education meetings for months; however, board members who support privatization continue to hold back on responding. Back in September, the board voted 5-4 to reject a tentative agreement with the cafeteria workers’ union. The board’s Republican majority is looking instead to hire Long Island-based Whitsons Culinary Group to run the cafeterias. …. The board made its request for proposal, interviewed potential cafeteria vendors, and submitted its paperwork to the state last year, and is waiting to hear if it has to go through the process again before it can sign any contracts, Amara said…..
Cafeteria workers file lawsuit against privatizing food service operations
Source: Suasn Corica, Bristol Press, February 9, 2014

The union representing school cafeteria workers has made good on its vow to continue the fight against privatization by suing to overturn a recent state level ruling allowing privatization. The state Board of Mediation and Arbitration in January granted the Board of Education the right to privatize school food service operations. Local 2267 of Council 4 AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees), which counts the 53 cafeteria workers among its approximately 300 members, filed the lawsuit Jan. 29. The lawsuit will go to a hearing in New Britain Superior Court on Monday, Feb. 24. “Will we have a firm decision on the 24th? I highly doubt it,” said Kevin Murphy, Council 4’s director of collective bargaining and organizing. The union also has a parallel action before the state Board of Labor Relations charging that the Board of Education negotiated the tentative agreement in bad faith. …

Food service fight: Cafeteria workers’ union vows to take it to next level
Source: Susan Corica, Bristol Press, January 23, 2014

The Board of Education has won one battle in its fight to privatize school food service operations, but the cafeteria workers’ union is vowing to fight on. Board Chairman Lawrence Amara said the state Board of Mediation and Arbitration ruled recently that the Bristol Board of Ed has the right to privatize, but he hasn’t seen the written decision. Chad Lockhart, president of Local 2267 of Council 4, Association of Federal, State, County and Municipal Employees, which counts the 53 cafeteria workers among its about 300 members, said the union is moving to vacate the decision. … Lockhart said the union also filed charges with the state Board of Labor Relations, saying the Board of Education negotiated in bad faith. That decision, which he feels will carry more weight, likely won’t be rendered until March or April. …

Cafeteria workers stage protest before Bristol Board of Ed meeting
Source: Susan Corica, Bristol Press, November 6, 2013

School cafeteria workers and their labor allies Wednesday night once again asked the Board of Education members to reconsider their vote to privatize school food service operations. Once again the board declined to take action. …. Once the board meeting began, the crowd filled the auditorium and many addressed the board to reiterate their anger at the situation. Board members did not comment. Meeting rules mandate that a board member who originally voted with the majority make a motion to reconsider and none did so. …

School board declines request to reconsider cafeteria deal
Source: Susan Corica, Bristol Press, October 2, 2013

School cafeteria workers accused majority members on the Board of Education of putting profits over people while those members countered they are being responsible stewards of the taxpayers’ money…. The workers and their supporters — some wearing green and white AFSCME T-shirts — filled the board’s meeting room Wednesday night to protest the board’s recent 5-4 rejection of a proposed deal with the workers’ union…. The deal the board rejected in September would have stripped health insurance and other benefits from many employees….

…However, the board’s Republican majority is looking instead to hire private company Whitsons Culinary Group to run the cafeterias. The union has filed a complaint with the state Board of Labor Relations charging the school board with negotiating in bad faith. The union’s position is that the school system will wind up spending tens of thousands of dollars defending the board’s decision and won’t be successful. Sharon Peterson, a cafeteria worker at Hubbell Elementary School, said her fellow workers have dedicated 10 to 20 years of service and given up benefits and raises in that time to keep their jobs yet the board “so lightly chose to get rid of us.”…