CPS, Lunchroom Workers Reach Deal

The Board of Education has agreed to stop transitioning schools to warming kitchens

A new labor deal could impact what Chicago kids eat at school.

After two months of negotiations, lunchroom workers reached a five-year contract agreement with Chicago Public Schools to serve fresh-cooked food in cafeterias.

"Chicago Public Schools has listened to us," says Constance Hatchett, a CPS cook.  

The workers said many students have gone hungry instead of eating the frozen lunches served at public schools. Lunchroom workers have pushed their "let's cook" campaign, even protesting outside CPS headquarters.

The workers eventually took their argument to the bargaining table, and members of UNITE HERE Local 1 announced Thursday a deal with CPS.

The Board of Education has put a freeze on converting any cooking kitchens to warming kitchens for the next two years. The board also agreed to 2 percent higher wages for lunchroom workers, a maternity leave and short-term disability policy, and free professional development courses.

"This agreement signifies what can be accomplished when two parties come to the table, negotiate in good faith, listen and compromise,” said CPS chief Jean-Claude Brizard.

The contract also outlines the formation of a union-CPS "Good Food Committee" that will meet monthly and a wellness plan for union members.

The deal covers five years and more than 3,000 employees.

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