by Larry Dorman and Kevin Zapf Hanes | November 20, 2015
This past Election Day, school cafeteria workers sent a clear message that there are consequences to putting corporate profit ahead of children’s nutrition, voting out a majority on the Bristol (Connecticut) Board of Education that tried to outsource school lunch service.
Proponents of the outsourcing plan held a 5-4 majority, but failed to garner public support for the measure when they introduced it in 2013. Mobilizing under the name “Lunch Ladies Rock,” the hardworking cafeteria workers helped elect a new board with a 6-3 majority adamantly opposed to privatizing school nutrition services.
“Bristol voters, by their overwhelming rejection of outsourcing, sent a powerful reminder that when people really know what’s going on, they will stand up for other working families and demand fairness from elected officials,” said Sal Luciano, AFSCME Council 4 executive director and also International vice president.
The hardworking women and men went beyond traditional means of rallies and Board of Education speak-outs to build a community to disseminate their message and garner public support for their fight. The Lunch Ladies Rock Facebook page proved to be an important tool to inform the community of the dangers of outsourcing. It also allowed workers to communicate their commitment to the students they serve to parents and neighbors alike.
“It’s been a long, hard struggle, but justice finally prevailed,” said Local 2267 Vice Pres. Kathy Martin, who spent 15 years as a cafeteria worker before becoming a paraprofessional this month. “Our members saw outsourcing as a threat not only to the jobs we love but to the children we serve. We stopped this recklessness by connecting with our community.”
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