Strike Imminent For St. Paul Schools’ Food Workers

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Lunch care workers that just recently attempted to paint their wage demands as beneficial to the children they serve are now on the verge of starting a strike if their demands are not met.

Previously Alpha News reported that the lunch care workers were demanding a $15 an hour minimum wage. Currently cash-strapped St. Paul Schools district is running millions of dollars over budget. The increase in wages up from $11.66 an hour would cost the district up to $350,000 annually in additional labor costs.

In spite of the large deficits, the district was receptive to the request, pledging to reach a $15 minimum wage for all of its employees by 2020.

That is not fast enough for the union’s leadership and membership however. The Pioneer Press reports that union members have been occupying school board meetings, and that 92 percent of the members voted Monday to authorize a strike. More than eight million meals and one million snacks were distributed by these workers in St. Paul’s schools last year.

Previously the Teamsters tried to paint their struggle for higher wages as beneficial to the students in the schools they work at, with Teamsters Local 320 officer Brian Aldes telling the Pioneer Press, “Nutrition services earn below a poverty wage and provide a valuable service to our children. Proper nutrition is key to a healthy learning environment.”

With the district merely committing itself to not spend money it does not have, and the unions prepared to strike even in the face of a generally receptive negotiating opponent, Aldes’ claim begins to strike a little hollow.

This is especially so in light of the fact that the Pioneer Press also reports that there is a $150 million International Brotherhood of Teamsters strike fund which workers would be able to dip into, along with a Teamsters-run food shelf ready for just such an occasion.

The food workers might be ready for the long haul, but the students they serve will surely notice a difference in their school meals.

Anders Koskinen