The large turn was a consequence of workers who were fearful that their jobs would be on the line should Aramark, a multibillion dollar company with operations around the world, take over the manaagment of food for the district.
The crowd was so large the meeting was moved to the theater, where for nearly three hours the one-year management was discussed, dissected and debated before the board approved a $66,000 contract with Aramark for the upcoming school year, which begins Monday.
The board’s decision to hire a management company was prompted by the retirement of Sue Davis, the district’s food services director for 12 years.
Four companies submitted proposals to manage the district’s food service operations and one was dropped from the list because the district said it wanted to reduce wages.
The part time cafeteria workers, who are unionized and earn up to about $14 an hour, told board members they feared that bringing in a large corporation to supervise their operations was the first step toward job cuts, lower wages and inferior benefits, especially in their pensions.
Aramark representatives told the board they had no intentions of doing any of that and assured the board “nothing is going to change,” including the menus, scheduling and pay scale.
The workers will remain district employees but will be supervised by an onsite food services manager, who has previous experience with schools in Scranton.
In addition, Aramark will act as a purchasing agent for the district, paying all vendors and submitting food bills to the district.
Over the years, the cafeteria has been losing money but last school year it was just about breaking even, said business manager Mark Schiavone.
Stephen Herchenrider, an Aramark senior director in Dowingtown, said Aramark can bring savings through its purchasing power.
“Long term it’s a good move for the district,” he said.
Laurie Eddy said she knows from experience that what may be good for the district does not mean it will be good for the employees.
“I’ve been through this three times,” she said. “It’s not a good thing.”
The first time her pay was cut in half and her benefits were taken away.
“I’ve been through this … I know how it works,” she said.
Pam Colton, the board president, said that was not what the board had in mind.
Union president, Greg Layton, said he had his doubts.
“When it comes to companies coming in from the outside, they are here for one reason only: to make money,” he said. “These companies guarantee you a return at the end of the year. How much do we pay upfront and along the way to get this guaranteed return because nothing is free these days?”