Paula Madsen considers herself lucky.
When the Woodbridge Board of Education decided to privatize its cafeteria services three years ago to Chartwells, a lot of workers had their salaries or their hours slashed. With her seniority, Madsen only lost 15 percent of her salary.
With Chartwell, she said, that was a win. A lot of her colleagues weren't so fortunate.
"We used to enjoy our jobs. We used to have fun," Madsen said.
It's not that way anymore, but the cafeteria workers have taken steps to try and get back some of the benefits they say they lost when they were outsourced to Chartwells, a national food services firm.
Madsen and her fellow workers joined SEIU last August, with the intent of trying to get back some of the salary and benefits they lost when Chartwells became their boss. SEIU is a union that represents janitors and food service workers in New Jersey, said SEIU spokeswoman Maia Davis.
They've been in negotiations all summer long," Madsen said.
"We're getting nowhere."
Madsen, her colleagues, and SEIU officials will be at the Woodbridge BOE meeting tonight, which will be held tonight at 7 pm at Avenel Middle School.
Some of the workers' complaints are what they feel is the stinginess of Chartwells in coming up with offers, which she said amounted to raises of 20 cents and abbreviated health benefits, when they were offered at all.
"They aren't hiring anyone full time. How can you work three hours a day for $8 an hour, and then you have to pay for your own health insurance? No one can do that," she said.
Chartwells didn't not reply to specifics alleged by the food service workers.
"We respect the right of every associate to be represented by the Union. Chartwells has committed and continues to negotiate in good faith in accordance with the National Labor Relations Act," a Chartwells spokesperson said in a prepared statement.