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Cedar Falls school board amends food service workers' contract to match support staff raises

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CEDAR FALLS — Food service workers settled their contract early with Cedar Falls Community Schools, but they won’t miss out on the heftier raise another employee group is getting.

The Board of Education this week took the unusual step of amending its previously negotiated agreement with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2749. There are 49 district food service workers covered by the contract.

The three-year AFSCME contract, approved in December and starting July 1, included a 50-cent hourly boost to base wages during the first year. Existing employees were scheduled to get the same raise.

Under the memoradum of understanding approved by the board Monday, the increase will be doubled to $1. Raises will stay at 40 and 30 cents per hour in the next two years. That matches the two-year Cedar Falls Education Support Professionals contract the board also approved Monday, with $1 per hour more the first year and a 40-cent increase the second year.

“I do want to acknowledge it’s unusual, but it’s a recommendation we’re making quite strongly nonetheless,” Adrian Talbot, the district’s executive director of human resources, told the board before the AFSCME vote.

Adrian Talbot

Talbot

He noted that the district reached out to union officials about the possibility of making some revisions to the contract after the December approval “due to subsequent local and national labor market volatility and upward pressure on wages along with increased competition for workers.”

The board’s approval of the AFSCME memorandum also included the addition of a one-time $750 retention bonus for those employees, something that was part of the support professionals’ contract. Employees in both groups have to be already working for the district on June 30 and accept a letter of assignment for 2023-24. The payment will then be made Sept. 30, 2023.

“This retention payment would be funded with Elementary and Secondary (School) Emergency Relief funds, referred to as ESSER,” said Talbot. “This payment will become neither part of the ongoing hourly wage nor a component of the language in the collective bargaining agreement.”

Cedar Falls Education Support Professionals includes 221 paraeducators as well as building secretarial and clerical staff. Their agreement includes a 7.63% increase in wages and non-insurance benefits the first year and a 2.83% increase the second year.

Nate Gruber NEW

Gruber

“I’m glad to see that we’re able to come to a multi-year agreement,” said board member Nate Gruber. However, in light of the “wage resetting event” in the Waterloo Community Schools, he added that Cedar Falls Schools needs to determine “what are we going to do to make sure that our paraprofessionals stay.”

Neighboring Waterloo Schools’ support staff received a $2 hourly pay boost in February. That is being followed by a $1 increase for the 2022-23 school year.

Board member Jenny Leeper noted that the Waterloo district was able to make those increases in part because it had more federal ESSER money available than Cedar Falls Schools.

Jenny Leeper NEW

Leeper

“It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, so I think it’s important that the community understand that, as well,” she said. “It’s not that we’re not trying to stay competitive it’s that there’s a difference in funding and it needs to be sustainable funding.”

Board member Jeff Hassman thanked district staff for their work on the contracts.

“We have our fiscal constraints,” he said. “We have to be fiscally responsible, we have to be sustainable in the decisions that we make.”

Jeff Hassman

Hassman

But Hassman suggested that they have also been sensitive to Cedar Falls Schools’ employees “listening to the market and trying to do all we can within the confines of what we have to work with in a school district.”

Seperately, Talbot said the Cedar Falls Education Association is scheduling a meeting for ratification on a tentative agreement reached with the administration after four closed sessions. If ratified by association members, it will come to the board for approval.

In other business, the board approved a one-year school nursing contract with MercyOne Waterloo for $593,252, a $2,778 increase from the current agreement. Staffing in the contract includes a part-time manager, four full-time equivalent registered nurses, three other RNs on an as-needed basis, 7.5 full-time equivalent health assistants and four other assistants on an as-needed basis.

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Local News Editor

I cover local schools and higher education for The Courier, where I’ve been a reporter for the past two decades. I’m a Minnesota native and have previously worked for newspapers there and in Illinois.

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