Cafeteria workers flock to union gathering

August 12, 1994|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Staff Writer

A word-of-mouth telephone campaign drew 160 Baltimore County cafeteria workers to a union organizing meeting Wednesday night after employees heard reports that the school system planned to cut their benefits.

School officials said yesterday that their plans for restructuring will not harm workers financially.

Clarence Turner, an organizer for the United Steelworkers of America, said his union is exploring the possibility of representing the 800 part-time workers, who have no union now. One roadblock is that state law allows a maximum of three labor groups for school workers, and that limit has already been reached in Baltimore County.

The cafeteria workers, mostly women, are worried about reports that they will lose up to 20 paid days off, representing as much as 10 percent of their salaries, when they come back to work in September.

Several at the meeting at the Steelworkers Hall in Dundalk said they were especially upset after learning yesterday that the price of Baltimore County school lunches is increasing by a nickel this fall. Baltimore County lunches are the most expensive in the metropolitan area and cost 50 percent more than lunches in neighboring Baltimore City and Howard County.

James Lipan, food service coordinator for Baltimore County's schools, said the workers will lose their paid days off, but will recoup those losses through higher pay rates and changes in the pay structure. He also said that if the officials decide to require new uniforms, as they have discussed, the county will pay a $25 stipend.

He said the current five-step scale, which pays $6.75 to $7.85 per hour, will change to a 10-step system ranging from $7.30 to $9.10 for workers putting in more than four hours a day.

He said other benefits, including life insurance, medical insurance, personal leave and sick leave will not change.

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