FWISD cafeteria workers protest rumors of outsourcing
The Fort Worth school board is poised to vote Tuesday on a food service management contract that could result in the outsourcing of about 800 campus cafeteria jobs — a move that is being closely watched by Tarrant County labor advocates.
“We don’t want any outsourced workers at the Fort Worth school district,” said Brian Golden, president of the Tarrant County Central Labor Council AFL-CIO. “We are Fort Worth and we take care of our own.”
The labor group has made a public push to urge members of the school board not to vote in favor of outsourcing the food service program. It used social media to urge people to contact trustees and outlined its position against privatization on its website.
Labor allies plan to attend Tuesday’s meeting, when the nine-member school board is set to vote on the issue.
The district has been exploring an outsourcing food services plan as a way to improve its focus on education while saving money.
“It is my firm belief that the Fort Worth ISD needs to get out of the food services business so we can double-down on the business of educating students,” Superintendent Kent Scribner said at a recent board budget workshop.
The district plans to contract with a food services management company for the 2019-2020 school year.
Proposed food service contract
Plans include approving a one-year contract that has the option of renewal. Under the contract, the district can’t exceed four one-year renewals.
The meeting agenda materials don’t state the amount of the contract. The district’s nutrition program revenue was projected at about $50 million for this school year.
The contract has to be reviewed and approved by the Texas Department of Agriculture. The district has until April 30 to provide the contract to the state for approval. Four companies have submitted bids: Aramark, Chartwells, SFE and SodexoMAGIC.
Scribner estimated that the district’s food services are operating at approximately 82 percent because 13 percent of the 813 positions are vacant and there is a 5 percent daily absentee rate.
After a study of the child nutrition services, the district stated that quality of food was a place for needed improvement.
Cafeteria employees work four to seven hours at an average of $12.80 per hour. There are 124 campus managers who work eight hours a day at $16.50 per hour on average.
Trustee Ann Sutherland had been a vocal critic of efforts to outsource cafeteria workers. She said she had received numerous emails from the community against the measure.
“As long as all the employees remain employees of Fort Worth ISD and not the contractor, I will vote for the contract,” Sutherland said, adding that she had not received a copy of the proposed contract or the bids as of Monday morning.
Trustee Anael Luebanos said Monday he hadn’t decided how he will vote.
“I am still weighing all of the merits of the proposal,” Luebanos said in a text message.
Trustee Norman Robbins said he too has heard from concerned people, but added that he supports any measures that streamline non-academic operations and allow for more focus on student success.
Labor allies worry the district’s cafeteria workers will end up working for lower wages for companies based outside of Texas. Additionally, many worry about the retirement of the workers, who have been eligible for the Texas Retirement System of Texas.
“This affects working families in Tarrant County,” Golden said.
The United Educators Association, which represents about 25,000 teachers and school employees, has raised the issue with school board candidates.
The UEA filed a complaint on behalf of the cafeteria workers, stating the district broke an agreement to allow workers a chance to review a request for proposals (known as an “RFP”) four weeks before they were submitted for bids.
“The district put out a RFP in early January and did not make it available to everyone four weeks ahead of the time,” the grievance states. “In fact, the RFP has yet to be provided to any Cafeteria Manager or employee as of this filing of the grievance.”
The grievance, which was filed on April 8, is pending.
The Fort Worth Education Association has also been critical of the district’s efforts to outsource food services.
If you go
The Fort Worth school board meets at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at Board of Education complex, 2903 Shotts Street Fort Worth.