Union reaches agreement with new Atlanta schools food-service vendor

A union that represents hundreds of food-service workers who work in Atlanta schools has reached an agreement with the company hired by the district to provide student meals. AJC file photo EMILY HANEY / emily.haney@ajc.com

Credit: Emily Haney

Credit: Emily Haney

The union that represents hundreds of workers who prepare meals in Atlanta schools reached an agreement over pay and benefits with the district’s new food-service vendor.

The Atlanta school board in May approved a contract with Arizona-based company Southwest Foodservice Excellence to provide meals for students.

The new vendor is the third food-service company hired by APS in four years. For the last two years, Aramark Educational Services provided the food service and employed hundreds of workers.

The vendor change meant that the union that represents more than 350 workers who had been employed by Aramark had to reach a new employment agreement with Southwest Foodservice Excellence.

Humeta Embry, executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1644, said the union reached an agreement with the new company. She said the pact protects “the benefits previously enjoyed by the former Aramark workers at APS.”

In an email, Embry said the agreement covers benefits, including retirement plans, and pay.

“It appears after years of food services controversies within APS, SFE maybe the best fit yet,” she said.

Kari Paulson, a spokesperson for Southwest Foodservice Excellence, said the agreement “provides comparable benefits to those previously enjoyed by the former Aramark workers at APS.”

“SFE recognized the need for the workers to stay comparably ‘whole,’ and we worked amicably and collaboratively with AFSCME to be sure this happened,” she said, in an email.

She said the company could provide more information after the collective bargaining agreement is signed.

Atlanta Public Schools will pay Southwest Foodservice Excellence an estimated $20.15 million this year.

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