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More than 100 union protesters rallied outside the School District of Philadelphia’s headquarters Thursday to demand higher pay.
The members of Unite Here Local 634 consist of 1,900 cafeteria workers and climate staff, who work across the district’s 216 schools.
Earlier this month they voted unanimously to empower union leadership to call a strike if no agreement is reached. The contract with the district is scheduled to expire September 30.
The decision was announced by Nicole Hunt, president of Local 634.
The vote represents an authorization, not a strike, and the employees will continue working unless a strike is called.
Tanya Edmonds is a union trustee and a food service worker in Chestnut Hill.
She says she’s worked with the district for 20 years and finds times harder now than ever before.
“We are feeding the kids but can’t feed our families, we are climate staff keeping children safe but cannot make enough money to live in a safe neighborhood,” she said.
Dajenaba Blackwell, a housekeeper in Atlantic City from Local 54, says she came to show support. “It’s time for a raise. These workers have been underpaid for the last several years, especially in Philadelphia,” she said.
Fellow Local 54 member Ronnette Lark, also from Atlantic City, said they both faced the same situation last year.
“We were just fighting for a raise a year ago. We all come out to support our brothers and sisters,” Lark said.
“Cafeteria workers are just as important as the teachers, they feed the kids, they are just as important as everyone else in the schools,” she added.
Edmonds says they will meet with the district Friday in hopes of reaching an agreement.
In a statement, district spokesperson Monique Braxton said the district “recognizes the central roles our food service staff and student climate staff play as members of our school communities.”
“We’re committed to a contract that values and supports these members of our team. As we approach the expiration of the current contract, we’re confident that we can reach an agreement with UNITE Here! Local 634 that serves our students, our staff, and our schools.”
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