Whitsons is built on a foundation of wholesome foods and strong family values, and has a long\u00a0history of partnering with school districts to provide innovative food services for their school\u00a0communities. We operate at many, union as well as non-union, locations where we have\u00a0harmonious employee relations. The Shelton School District granted a contract to Whitsons to operate a financially sound food\u00a0service program and encouraged Whitsons to hire the existing cafeteria workers. Whitsons did\u00a0offer and awarded positions to all of the Shelton food service workers on the roster provided by\u00a0the district at their existing rates of pay, which average about $16.74\/hour. The District\u2019s former\u00a0provider was running a deficit every year and continuing with them would have required the\u00a0District to make additional reductions to classroom staff. As the Chairman of the Board of\u00a0Education recently stated, \u201cIn order for us to re-enter that negotiation process we would end up\u00a0having to lay off one or two teachers \u2026 despite appreciating all of the work done by the cafeteria workers, laying off teachers to help them to maintain their benefits is unrealistic.\u201d Whitsons has offered fair wages and benefits, consistent with market reality and the financial requirements of the District. For example: Health Benefits \u2014 It is our standard practice to offer employees medical benefits after the first 60 days of employment, if eligible (the law provides for a 90 day waiting period). After Sodexo lost the bid for the food service contract, the Union discontinued the team\u00a0members\u2019 health coverage under the Union plan, and they then became eligible for\u00a0COBRA. Under COBRA, the team members would have had to pay 100% of their\u00a0healthcare coverage. Instead, understanding the burden this would have placed on the\u00a0team members, Whitsons agreed to pay up to 70% of the COBRA costs for all team\u00a0members during the 60 day eligibility period, even for those who work less than 30 hours\u00a0a week and normally would not be eligible to receive those benefits under the Affordable\u00a0Care Act. Although coverage was offered to everyone, a few chose not to take advantage\u00a0of COBRA and go without health coverage. We are now continuing to provide healthcare\u00a0coverage under the Whitsons Health Plan, while we negotiate our union contract, at a cost\u00a0of 70% to Whitsons and 30% to the team member. The Union is demanding these team\u00a0members go back into the Union plan and that Whitsons pay 80% of the cost in the first\u00a0year, 85% the second year and 90% the third year. Whitsons requested a copy of the plan\u00a0summary descriptions and what the monthly rate increase will be each year. To date the\u00a0Union has failed to provide both of those items, preferring to negotiate in the press. To\u00a0expect Whitsons to agree to an unknown increase each year is unreasonable and not in\u00a0keeping with our obligation to the District. As all labor costs are a cost of the food service\u00a0program which are charged to the District, it would be irresponsible for Whitsons to\u00a0agree to unreasonable labor cost that would cause a deficit to the food service program\u00a0and jeopardize the District\u2019s ability to fund educational programs. Whitsons\u2019 latest\u00a0proposal on November 7th and again December 5th was to accept the Union health plan\u00a0and pay 70% of the monthly cost the Union proposed for eligible team members. The\u00a0Union has not moved on their proposal. Paid Time Off \u2014 Depending on their date of hire, under their old contract team members\u00a0received anywhere from 28 to 41 paid days off in the form of up to 3 weeks\u2019 vacation, 12 Paid Holidays, and 12 paid sick days (Connecticut law mandates up to 5 sick days only). Most of these team members work a maximum of 181 days a year. Each team member\u00a0was given 5 paid days off to use so far while we are negotiating to ensure they had days\u00a0to use for Holidays and\/or sickness. Most if not all opted to take their PTO time for\u00a0Thanksgiving and the day after and were paid accordingly. So any claim Whitsons denied\u00a0them the option to be paid for those days is inaccurate. Whitsons\u2019 last proposal to the\u00a0Union was to give them 15 paid days off the first year increasing to 21 paid days off after\u00a0three years. There has been significant fair movement on Whitsons\u2019 part to which the\u00a0Union has only offered to give up 3 sick and 1 Holiday over the three years. The team\u00a0members also have the ability to collect unemployment for any times during which they\u00a0are off more than two days in a week as a result of school being closed, for example\u00a0Holidays, Christmas and Winter breaks as well as summer break. Whitsons recognizes the hard work these team members do day in and day out, and\u00a0acknowledges that these negotiations create stress and uncertainty in their lives. It is for those\u00a0reasons that Whitsons has bargained in good faith and diligently to complete these negotiations. The Whitsons Family Foundation has even made hardship grants to two employees (even though these team members were not yet eligible for this program). Contrary to the union\u2019s assertions and attempts at distorting the facts, Whitsons has made\u00a0significant movement in addressing the team members\u2019 concerns; yet the Union continues its\u00a0propaganda campaign against Whitsons daily. Whitsons will continue negotiating in good faith\u00a0and is confident that it will be able to reach a fair agreement, but it will not be bullied into an\u00a0unreasonable agreement that would cause the food service program to operate at a loss for the\u00a0District. We are focused on providing a quality and financially sound food service program for\u00a0the benefit of the district and the children we serve.