Hastings food service workers strike for higher wages

Striking food service workers line the sidewalk outside the entrance to Hastings Middle School on Day 1 of their strike.

About 35 school food service workers in Hastings went on strike for higher wages today, demanding more from a school district that recently increased its superintendent’s pay to over $200,000 per year.

“We feed their kids,” school cook Julie Clark said. “They should do more to help us feed ours.”

But in last-ditch talks with a state mediator Thursday, Independent School District 200 refused to put more money on the table, union leaders said on the picket line outside Hastings Middle School today.

The workers, members of Service Employees (SEIU) Local 284, are seeking wage increases of $3 per hour, but the district has refused to budge from an offer of roughly 2% per year, plus one-time bonuses.

Most workers in the bargaining unit earn between $15 and just over $18 per hour, with head cooks’ pay scale running about $7 per hour higher. Union members say one-time bonuses will do nothing to recruit and retain kitchen staff.

“I have kids ranging from 27 down to 11 years old, and my older kids make more money than I do with less required training,” said Clark, who earns $15.05 per hour after three years working in the district. “To be a cook, we’re required to take trainings and pass tests. My senior in high school is making $20 to $25 per hour.”

Hastings food service workers also accuse the district of inequitable treatment when it comes to ensuring a minimum number of work hours, and say they are fighting to maintain affordable dental and family insurance premiums.

But wages have been the biggest sticking point since negotiations began last June. Local 284’s previous, two-year contract expired June 30.

“I would prefer not to go on strike, but we haven’t seen much movement,” high school cook Sara Rapp said.

On Day 1 of the strike, union members picketed in two shifts, at the beginning and end of the school day. During the morning shift, several supporters honked their horns and waved as they drove by, and the picket line was overflowing with donated coffee and donuts.

Rapp said students at the high school were particularly supportive after workers, who voted to authorize a strike in December, publicly announced their strike date last month.

“The students have been really, really kind,” Rapp said. “I would hate to not serve them food, but at the same time they would hate to see us continue to make (the wages) we make.”

Union members said they plan to move their picket line to other school sites as the strike continues. They are asking supporters to join them on the picket line (follow the union’s Facebook page for locations) and sign onto a letter to the superintendent and school board members.


  1. […] Local 284 represents the 35 food service workers who have been on strike since Feb. 7. […]

  2. […] striking food service workers in Hastings put a spotlight on hardships faced by some of the lowest-paid school employees, state lawmakers […]

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