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Food service workers win first ever contract

HAMBURG — With a unanimous 24 – 0 vote, the food service employees at Hamburg Central Schools have earned union representation. The school board also unanimously approved the new union.

Jeff Siddons, formerly of Service Employees International Union Local 200 United, organized the unit. Debra Lauria has since taken over as the group’s union representative.

In addition to a wage increase of 2 percent during the contract’s three years, the employees bargained for and won four paid holidays and four personal days. A wage freeze that was imposed on the food service workers, cooks and cook managers in 2011 has been lifted; the new contract is retroactive to July 1.

“Now they have a functional contract,” Lauria said. “Not that they were treated badly before, but they were the only unit in the school district without a collective bargaining agreement.”

SEIU Local 200 United already represented the housekeepers and maintenance workers in the school district. “They know about the benefits the maintenance unit gets, and wanted to earn the same rights and protections,” said Local 200 United Lead Organizer Chris Machanoff.

The unit’s new chairperson, Alice Elavell, said, “Having a union means security and fairness, as far as raises and being treated well. Our negotiations went very well. The district worked with us; we received some of the things we asked for. It was a unanimous vote to accept the contract, so everyone was happy.”

SEIU Local 200 United President Scott Phillipson said, “We enthusiastically welcome the workers at Hamburg food services. We know they will be pleased with the benefits of being an organized staff, with union representation to protect the contract and their rights as workers.”

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