AFSCME election set for Rockford School Dist. food service workers

AFSCME election set for Rockford School Dist. food service workers


The Rockford School District food service workers will vote to become a union with AFSCME Council 31 on Thursday, Sept. 27. The 240 food service workers work in 54 different school kitchens across the district. Katherine Levin, an administrative law judge with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, ruled in July that the election must be held by Sept. 30.

“We’re organizing for job protection and a voice on the job,” said Peggy McGee, a meat cook at East High School. “I’m happy we’re one step closer to sitting down with the board for contract negotiations.”

McGee and a majority of her co-workers recently signed a letter asking the school board and Superintendent Alan Brown to remain neutral—not to interfere with the employees’ decisions on how to vote—in the period leading up to the election. “I hope they respect us and let us decide on our own,” said McGee.

The food service workers have collected about 300 signatures from the community on a petition addressed to the district. In the petition, they present their concerns about nutritionally-balanced meals, pay raises, safety conditions and the best use of taxpayer dollars.

Sandy Scott, food service manager at Lewis Lemon, told The Rock River Times, “The reason that we decided to organize was… that we needed a voice in some of the decisions that were being made. Some of the decisions that food service makes when there is a shortage—they are quick to pull people and drag us somewhere else to another school. It makes it a lot harder on the people that are left behind. That is just one example. We wanted to have a voice in some of the decisions.

“Years ago, working in the school was basically a way to get the little woman out and get some pocket money because it was a two-income household. Nowadays, there are a lot of parents that use it as an income. We are trained. When the public thinks of food service and women in cafeterias, there is the old standard with women in hair nets. We are not that way. We are trained professionals. A lot of the kids nowadays—the only nutritionally-balanced meal some of these kids get is what we do. We’re here for the kids.

“And insurance is a big issue. A lot of gals are working out there and only lack a half hour and need insurance. My cook is only lacking a half hour, and she needs insurance. Her husband works in construction. Her daughter had an emergency operation for appendicitis, and her husband was laid off from his construction job, and they didn’t have any insurance at all. A half hour! We get produce dumped on us… we don’t get any extra pay for it. It is figured into our schedule. There are a lot of reasons why we felt we need it. We need a lot of people standing behind us. A lot of us—me included—donate a lot of time.

“If you would talk to food service—they say, go home; you can do it in the morning! But then you are that much farther behind the next morning. Donating time and insurance are a lot of the reasons why we chose to unionize. We are more than willing to sit down and work with them. That is why we asked the school board to remain neutral and have our vote…. We have asked them to please stay neutral. We have asked them as a group at board meetings and asked the community to get involved.”

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