Tough fight leads to better pay for Maramont employees
by Jess Berry
Nov 07, 2014 | 2870 views | 0 0 comments | 67 67 recommendations | email to a friend | print
After a contentious fight and threats of firings and closure, the 130 employees of Maramont/Preferred meals — who package and deliver meals to over 200 public schools in Brooklyn — have worked out a contract with their employer to provide both better wages and affordable health care.

Maramont came under fire from the city, which pays the company over $10 million annually for their services, after it was revealed that the company failed to pay living wages and threatened to violate the Affordable Care Act and pay a federal fine instead of giving health care to its employees.

At a rally earlier in October, one employee named Flor explained that she had been working at Maramont for 13 years. In that time her wages increased from $5.15 per hour to $8.90 per hour.

Through Workers United, Maramont employees fought hard for better wages, finally resulting in a contract that was agreed upon last week.

The new three-year contract will increase the average wage from $10 per hour to $11.30 per hour, and effective immediately, all employees covered by the new contract will earn at minimum $9.50 per hour.

Those increases mean that Maramont employees’ wages will grow immediately by an average of 6.5 percent, and by 13 percent over the course of the three-year contract.

All employees will also received high quality, affordable health insurance.

Angelica Amigon, a Maramont employee since 2005, summed up the relief of all of the employees at the company.

“Thanks to God and to the struggle of my co-workers,” she said. “Together with our union we achieved a fair contract with fair raises and medical insurance.”

Julie Kelly, vice president of Workers United, credited the strong spirit of the employees and said that the contract is important for the entire Brooklyn community.

“Our members are tough. They know how to fight hard and win,” Kelly said. “This is a strong contract that will benefit the entire community by strengthening families and ensuring the continuation of high-quality food service to schools.”

Local Councilman Carlos Menchaca stood by the Maramont employees throughout the battle, attending their rallies and hosting meetings in his office. For him, as the chair of the Council’s Immigration Committee, the Maramont employees’ victory has larger implications for the entire immigrant community in New York City.

“This new contract is a major victory for workplace rights and for immigrant rights,” Menchaca said. “It shows the crucial role that unions can play in strengthening the lives of immigrant New Yorkers.”

The company also backed itself into a corner when a judge ruled in June of this year that Maramont owed nearly 1,500 current and former employees $88 million in back wages.

Up until this contract was settled, there was also no indication as to whether or not Maramont intended to pay back those wages. Now, the company has reached a preliminary settlement to recover the back wages.

An attorney representing Maramont workers in a class-action suit for back wages, James Murphy, said that the company “has reached a fair and equitable settlement with the workers that is subject to court approval.”

“We expect workers who are covered by the settlement will receive notice of the proposed terms in the near future after it is approved by the court,” Murphy said.

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