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City School Cafeteria Workers 'Devastated' By Layoffs

Longtime Employees Complain To Board About Loss Of Their Jobs

July 13, 2005
By RACHEL GOTTLIEB, Courant Staff Writer

Joyce R. Beaudoin, her oxygen beside her, walked to the microphone quickly Tuesday when it was her turn to address the Hartford school board.

The school cafeteria worker had worked at her post for 30 years - nearly half her 63 years of life as she pointed out - until she was laid off without warning. Another 13 lunch ladies just like her - 10 of them city residents and many with decades of service - also lost their jobs in late June.

"I can't tell you how devastated we were to get these letters," Beaudoin said. "Not one of us makes more than $20,000 a year." And next month, she said, she will lose her work-related insurance benefits.

Beaudoin spoke of her dedication to her job. "No matter how sick I was, I went to work early so I could get to my job and get there early to let the kids in."

Joan Sirois described the tasks she performed in her 23 years. "I served breakfast and wiped the tables to get ready for lunch. I got the lunch count from teachers, I opened milk for children and I opened their mustard and mayonnaise packets. Sometimes I had to break up a fight. ... Somebody in food service said our jobs were useless. I didn't feel useless. I felt helpful."

Mark Blumenthal, president of Local 566, the union representing the workers, said he has tried to get an explanation for the layoffs but school district administrators won't return his calls or agree to meet with him.

"Every one of these women has done more than one job in food service, but there is no such thing as seniority," he said. "These women are being denied that."

Michael Williams, board vice chairman, said that he had not heard any talk of layoffs during the budget process and asked school administrators for an explanation.

Gail Johnson, director of human resources, said the food service director was reorganizing positions in order to be more efficient. Most of the workers who received termination notices will land in different jobs within the school system, she said.

But Blumenthal said the workers shouldn't have to go through the trauma of losing their jobs and applying for another, similar job for which they are qualified. Their job descriptions and tasks can change without forcing them to go through the application process, he said.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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