Dallas school cafeteria workers seek answers from board about lost benefits

By Eileen Godin - [email protected] | September 11th, 2017 10:42 pm - updated: 8:25 am.

DALLAS TWP. — Mary Artsma wanted to know why 26 Dallas School District cafeteria workers lost their health, life insurance, retirement and paid days off benefits.

“We would like to know why,” the 15-year district cafeteria worker said Monday. “We deserve an answer.”

Artsma’s concerns are related to the Dallas School District’s decision to replace an expired contract with nutrition vendor Metz Culinary Management Inc. of Dallas with Southwest Foodservice Excellence, based in Scottsdale, Arizona, for the 2017-18 school year.

“Why wasn’t our contract rolled over with this new company?” Artsma asked.

The food service employees are not Dallas School District employees, district Business Manager Grant Palfey said. Metz Culinary Management held the contract, he added.

Palfey said the district did advertise and receive three bids — from Southwest Foodservice Excellence, Metz Culinary Management Inc. and Nutrition Inc. Each proposal varied by about $11,000 a month, he said.

The district’s Cafeteria and Wellness committee recommended SFE to the board. SFE’s bid was accepted on an interim basis of 90 days, expiring on Nov. 30.

“I have no problem with the new food service company — they are wonderful — but what I have a problem with is for the past 35 years the food service company that won the bid has always honored our contract,” Artsma said, asking if the contract was included in the bid request.

Palfey assured Artsma that the “current labor rates” were included with the request for proposals, but it was up to the new vendor to accept or renegotiate the food service contract with employees.

Artsma said current food service workers lost all their benefits and had to reapply for their jobs.

“These are people who have been here 35, 40 years,” Artsma said. “Myself 15.”

Monty Staggs, co-president of SFE, and addressed the audience, Artsma and her colleagues at the meeting.

“We will negotiate in good faith,” Staggs said.

After the meeting, Dan Matello, co-president of SFE, said he is willing to renegotiate the contract with the food service employees, but did not want to “inherit a contract set up by the preceding company.”

Matello said SFE and the food service employees do not have a negotiation meeting scheduled yet.

“They are a great bunch of ladies,” Matello said.

In other news, the Dallas School Board will hold an Act 34 meeting to discuss plans to replace Dallas Elementary with an intermediate school to house third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students at 7 p.m. on Sept. 18 at the Dallas High School in Dallas Township.

The next school board meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Oct. 9 in the school administration building, 2000 Conyngham Ave., Dallas Township.

Mary Artsma, a 15-year food service worker in the Dallas School District, grills the school board regarding why the food service department workers lost benefits.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/web1_Dallas-SB-3.jpgMary Artsma, a 15-year food service worker in the Dallas School District, grills the school board regarding why the food service department workers lost benefits. Eileen Godin | Times Leader

By Eileen Godin

[email protected]

Reach Eileen Godin at 570-991-6387 or on Twitter @TLNews.