The SRU food workers and Aramark have come to an agreement and avoided a strike, but the food workers are still understaffed.
Aramark and the union member bargaining committee met on Sept. 7 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. for a negotiation that started out slow but progressed quickly and lasted only one day. The food workers tentatively agreed to a three-year contract.
“The way it started out, we were thinking it was going to be a bit of a fight,” Kim Hindman, a Wisenfluh Dining Hall cook and union stewardess, said. “In the end, we all wanted to come to an agreement. We all have a job to do.”
The new contract features a $3 immediate raise and a $1.75 raise for the next two years.
This is the most money and best contract she has seen negotiated in her 40 years at SRU, Hindman said.
The food workers were also after a new healthcare plan. They didn’t get a new one, but they did get a reduced rate from a $75 premium to a $45 premium.
They also have an incentivized wage that went from 45 to 55 cents per hour without healthcare.
This incentivized wage is primarily for employees that are on another health care plan and don’t need Aramark’s.
Food workers also now earn holiday pay on Presidents Day, so they are now paid for working all major holidays.
“The union member bargaining committee is recommending ratification of this contract,” Sam Williamson, the SEIU 32BJ Western Pennsylvania district leader, said, “but the full membership has not yet voted on the agreement.”
“Part of the negotiation was to try to get to where we’re at a fair market value and competitive with other places around,” Hindman said. “With these added incentives, hopefully the company is going to be able to hire, because we are still short a lot of people.”
The staff shortages can also be attributed to the loss of student employees. Students made up a large portion of the food workers before the pandemic.
Aramark is trying to make up for this by hiring from temporary employee services and creating ads. They also offer a 401k plan and a $750 deductible.
Despite working through staff shortages, morale in the kitchen is on the rise since the employees know money is coming.
“Everybody’s pretty excited about what we got,” Hindman said. “We make the company. It’s not Aramark, it’s the employees that work there. They’re the ones that make the company and make sure everybody gets fed.”
“We just want to see some value from the company,” she said. “Acknowledging that we’re short staffed and working hard to make this happen.”
She hopes that this victory will inspire other universities holding contracts with Aramark to negotiate a better contract and get what they deserve.
In Boozel Dining Hall, there are signs at every station that break down the position, hours, pay and benefits to encourage students to apply. All stations are hiring for various shifts. Students can apply at careers.aramark.com.
“We will release the full details of our wins in this contract after our members vote on ratification,” Williamson said.