Editorials and Opinions

Outsourcing the cafeteria

By Aron Milberg
Published: February 2010

The cafeteria staff at South might be looking for work sometime soon as, in an effort to cut costs, the Newton Public Schools are planning to privatize the lunch services. The staff, currently coupled with Newton Public Schools, would be subject to the rules and payment of the private company to whom NPS is outsourcing.

This means one of few things, either the staff lose their jobs entirely, or they keep their jobs but at even lower wages with no benefits, subject to the whims of a cost-cutting third party.

Besides the librarians and custodial staff, the cafeteria staff is already the most mistreated group of individuals at the school. They work long hours in the Student Center for low wages, all the while subject to students haranguing them.

They and the aforementioned custodial staff keep the school running, doing the fine-tuning required for a smooth-running school day. In addition to these obligations, the school wants to cut their jobs or take away their benefits? This cannot be tolerated.

If one worker loses his or her rights due to cost-cutting, then all workers can lose said rights; it sets the precedent for abuse and abrogation of all workers’ rights. In the interest of preserving the labor and worker rights of those who staff our kitchens, cook our food, clean the cafeteria, and smile at me every morning as they hand me my coffee and bagel with two cream cheeses, the school cannot privatize their jobs and take away the benefits of working in a public system.

We live in a nation strained for health insurance and other such amenities, as demonstrated by the current gridlock of the Obama administration. The laying-off or transferring of our cafeterial staff is indicative of such a problem’€that a worker and his or her benefits are considered, ultimately, dispensable to the ruse of cheaper costs and increased profits.

This is not a struggle particular to the staff at our school, although their fight, considering its proximity to our lives, must be dealt with immediately.

Nevertheless, it is a struggle against a system in which a person can lose their life and livelihood so that an institution can save a nominal amount of money. A School Committee that poured millions into building an entirely new high school and is now thinking that cutting six or seven workers is a good cost-cutting measure, should rethink their priorities and their understanding of basic economics and finance.

I urge the school not to privatize its food services, and if it does, that it guarantees all current workers their jobs and the benefits included therein.

Should the school do this, it will be setting the standard for worker equality and justice in the country, a noble goal’€and a goal that Newton ostensibly stands for, as a bastion of liberal tolerance stands for, but has not represented fully through its hypocritical actions.

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