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CPS lays off 200 cafeteria workers

Updated: August 3, 2013 1:34AM

Chicago Public Schools announced Friday that an additional 200 cafeteria workers will be the latest to receive layoff notices, pushing to more than 3,000 the number of staff cut this summer.

CPS said the layoffs will save the school system about $4 million.

“We have reduced Central Office, administrative and operations spending by nearly $700 million since 2011,” CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said in a statement, “and today’s actions are among the reductions we are making outside the classroom in order to protect programs that support student learning.”

According to a CPS fact sheet about the layoffs, lunchroom employees 50 years of age or older with at least 10 years of service were offered a voluntary separation opportunity in June. Out of the 1,067 employees eligible, 75 took the offer.

CPS lunchroom employee Linda Green said she didn’t take the offer because she said her contract states the most junior employees would be laid off first.

“We’re not really sure what [CPS leadership] is going to do,” she said. “We’re all in waiting mode right now.”

Members of UNITE HERE Local 1, Chicago’s hospitality workers union, expressed concern for the effect the layoffs could have on a new fresh foods program CPS is supposed to launch in the fall. UNITE HERE spokesperson Carly Karmel said that about 300 e-mails have been sent to CPS Chief Administrative Officer Tim Crawley since the beginning of this week, asking him to avoid more layoffs.

“How will a program designed to serve fresh food to our children function if there aren’t enough cooks in the kitchen?” states the standard e-mail. “Lunchroom workers are the backbone of any successful school lunch program, and cuts to lunchroom staff will set up the new fresh food program for failure before it even starts.”

Karmel said that CPS had been on the right track when it agreed to try a fresh foods model for the schools that serve frozen, re-heated meals. “Community members, parents, grandparents – everyone really cares about this program. We’re worried it’s in jeapordy now,” said Karmel.

A CPS spokesperson said in an email that the quality of food at CPS would not be compromised. “The district was already operating inefficiently compared to other school districts, and will now be closer to the industry average,” states the email.

CPS will host a job fair Tuesday for lunchroom workers who have been laid off so they can learn about available Chicago-area jobs.

The new layoffs are the latest in a tumultuous summer for the school system.

In July, 2,113 teachers and other employees learned they would be laid off, largely due to a giant pension obligation increase that’s straining the system.

About a month before that another 855 employees were laid off, mostly due to the closure of 48 schools.

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