Nutrition Services workers in the St. Paul School District – the lowest paid employees in the district – have voted to authorize a strike if wages aren’t raised in contract negotiations. Their fight adds new urgency to the campaign for a $15 minimum wage in the City of St. Paul.
“Nutrition Services employees are the only employee group that the district has refused to move up to $15 by 2018 and is the only group to be offered no wage increase during the 2017 calendar year,” said Josh Loahr, business agent and chief negotiator for Teamsters Local 320, which represents the nearly 300 Nutrition Services workers.
In balloting Monday, union members voted 92 percent in favor of authorizing a strike “if the district does not negotiate an equitable contract,” the union said. A walkout could occur as early as November. Under state law, the union would need to give notice of a possible strike.
A bargaining session is scheduled for Oct. 24 with the help of a mediator. Local 320 Principal Officer Brian Aldes said workers want to see progress in negotiations and “Local 320 will do whatever is necessary to reach an equitable agreement.” The union noted that any walkout would have the support of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters’ $150 million strike fund and the Teamster-run food shelf and service bureau.
The strike vote comes as the campaign for a $15 minimum wage throughout St. Paul ramps up. Advocates of the wage are working to make it an issue in the city’s mayoral and School Board elections this year.