UPDATED: Whitsons and 'lunch ladies' reach tentative agreement

Whitsons Culinary Group and Shelton’s food service workers have reached a tentative contract agreement, following a months-long and public clash on paid time-off benefits.

Whitsons, the food service provider for Shelton schools, announced the agreement Wednesday afternoon in a prepared statement sent to The Herald.

Ian Dunn, a spokesperson for Unite Here Local 217, the union representing the cafeteria workers, confirmed the news and shared statements from some of the "lunch ladies."

"As a long time lunch lady, I am so proud of all the hard work in our fight to protect our livelihood,"said Janet Martin-Allen, a 38 year employee in the school lunch program. "In the end we were able to achieve a contract we are proud of. We extend a heartfelt thank you to the residents of Shelton, who stood by us as we fought to maintain good jobs in our city." 

Neither group has released additional details. The statement from Local 217 said the three-year agreement provides for decent wages,  affordable health care and income security through paid time-off.

"After a long year of personal loss and hardships, we won our fight to protect good jobs for Shelton Lunch Ladies.” said Barbara Jelacic, a 19-year employee in the school lunch program.

Below is the statement from Whitsons:

"After months of arduous and, at times, contentious negotiations, Whitsons is pleased to announce that it has reached a tentative agreement with UNITE HERE Local 217 at Shelton Public Schools covering its food service workers. The agreement has been approved by the union negotiating committee which is made up of Shelton food service workers and is pending ratification by the full membership in late August, 2018. The collective bargaining agreement provides for reasonable annual salary increases, health benefits and paid time off to the food service workers, which will enable the food service program to continue operating in a fiscally sound manner to the benefit of the school district, the students and the entire Shelton community.

Whitsons is built on a foundation of wholesome foods and strong family values, and has a long history of partnering with school districts to provide innovative food services for their school communities. We thank the Shelton School District, the students, parents, and food service workers for their support, patience and resilience during this process, and look forward to a successful and productive new school year."

Shelton Lunch Ladies and members of Local 217 will vote to ratify the tentative contract on Aug. 23.

The agreement comes following a Board of Education meeting last month where more than 100 concerned Shelton school food service workers attended to voice their opposition to the renewal of the Whitsons food service contract. The contract was renewed in a 5-4 vote by the board. Read the previous story here.