A potential strike of 1,900 school district employees seems to have been avoided as leaders of Unite Here Local 634 reached a tentative four-year agreement with the School District of Philadelphia Thursday night.
Unite Here Local 634, the union representing cafeteria workers and climate and safety staff within the School District of Philadelphia, announced that its executive board reached a tentative contract agreement with district leaders Thursday night, just hours before the current contract was set to expire. The union’s members previously authorized the union to call a strike, making the Sept. 30 deadline even more significant if the district were to avoid possible disruptions in the school system.
“We are the heart of Philly schools. We are the people that keep our kids fed and safe. And tonight, I am proud to say that we have reached new heights,” Nicole Hunt, Unite Here Local 634 president, said in a statement.
The tentative contract agreement meets many of the members’ demands, including increased wages and benefit packages. The contract details include an immediate raise for all employees, a 29.7% wage increase for lowest-paid employees over the four-year period, an increase of $1,133 in health and welfare benefits for all climate staff, a 40% increase in legal services fund benefits, working walkie-talkies for climate staff to improve communication and guaranteed training on conflict resolution and de-escalation techniques.
“This contract honors the tireless, essential work that each and every School District of Philadelphia Food Service and Student Climate Staff employee does day in and day out,” Hunt said. “It provides historic wage increases. It provides dramatically improved legal and health benefits. It provides necessary training, more personal days and basic resources that will allow our employees to further support our young people. But, above all, it provides dignity – and that is what we deserve.”
Most of the union members, a large portion of whom are Black women, currently make $15.50 an hour, or roughly $32,200 annually.
District officials were confident yesterday that a strike could be avoided.
“The School District of Philadelphia recognizes the central roles our food service 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,” Monique Braxton, district spokesperson, told City & State Thursday.
Members of Local 634 will meet in the coming days to ratify the agreed-upon contract.
NEXT STORY: Five for Friday: Row Office Rumble