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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 19 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 38
Seattle University food service workers go union
Section One
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Seattle University food service workers go union

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Food service workers at Seattle University (SU) ratified their first union contract on September 17, according to UNITE HERE Local 8, the union they organized to join.

The 150 workers who serve students and faculty at campus dining facilities are employed by Bon Appetit Management Company. Like many colleges and universities, SU contracts out its food services.

UNITE HERE Local 8 represents some 5,000 hospitality and food service workers in Washington and Oregon.

SU food service workers went to management at the end of the 2014 academic year with strong majority support for the union and demanded recognition.

Once an employer recognizes a union as the bargaining agent for its employees, the two sides negotiate a contract, and then the workers must vote to ratify it.

In their newly ratified contract, SU food service workers won substantial pay increases, lower-cost healthcare benefits, and a number of improvements in their working conditions.

'I've been a cashier at Seattle University for more than six years,' said negotiating committee member Glenda Navas.

'I feel so proud that we now have a contract that gives consistent wage increases, immigration rights and protections, cheaper health insurance for myself and my co-workers, and most importantly, job security. Si se puede!'

UNITE HERE said workers enjoyed strong support from SU students and faculty.

'As a student at Seattle U, my greatest sources of pride and commitment to our mission of social justice have been in moments like these, when staff and students are able to see a direct impact in our communities,' said Class of 2015 student Lorena Mendoza-Flores.

'I'm so happy knowing that the women who serve us will now be able to better support their families. Working with UNITE HERE and Bon Appetit towards the first contract for our cafeteria workers was an experience that will stay with me forever.'

Veteran union members from around the Puget Sound region were involved in the successful organizing effort, the union said, and they joined in celebrating the victory.

'We welcome Seattle University workers to our union. Seattle is booming and getting more expensive, while we are struggling,' UNITE HERE member Melody Swett said. She is a cocktail server and long-time union member at the Westin Hotel.

'Together we can change that and raise the standard for food service workers in the Seattle area. We deserve better.'

It was at the Westin in 2007 that Local 8 successfully won the first hotel contract in the country to explicitly protect Transgender workers. The language protecting gender identity and expression is now standard in UNITE HERE contracts.

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