Elizabeth Hernandez took to the podium at Wednesday's South San Antonio ISD school board meeting to demand a raise for the district's cafeteria workers.

"We have not received a pay raise in five years and the cost of living is going up," said the Roy P. Benavidez Elementary cafeteria worker.

Hernandez is a member of the Southwest Workers Union, which represents approximately 75 South San cafeteria workers.

In March, the group protested at a school board meeting and proposed a $3 pay raise to counter the two-percent pay raise the district is considering. 

"An administrator that earns $60,000 will be taking home $1,200 per year more," said SWU organizer Chavel Lopez. "A cafeteria worker who approximately earns $10,000 per year would only take $200 more per year. That's unfair."

Lopez accused the district of retaliating against the cafeteria in the weeks following the March school board meeting. He said several members reported being told that their protest at the meeting cost the district a $1 million grant.

Lopez also said the union was prohibited from meeting on district grounds.

Superintendent Rebecca Robinson said those allegations were false. Robinson held a meeting with cafeteria workers two days after the March meeting to discuss their concerns.

Robinson said the $7.75 per hour wage cafeteria workers make is one of the lowest in the San Antonio, but that amount is the result of tight budgetary times and other district employees have had their pay cut.

"It's not just about their wages. We're looking at trying to make a corrective action across the district, not just for the cafeteria workers, but for all workers." Robinson said.

Robinson holds monthly meetings with the several unions that represent district workers, but she said SWU officials do not attend.

"Not once has the Southwest Workers Union ever showed up to consultation," Robinson said. "Not once have they brought up any concerns to us whatsoever."

Robinson said the district will not make a final decision on a pay raise until the district’s budget is approved in August.

While Lopez admits the relationship between the district and his union is strained, he said he still wants to meet with Robinson and other officials to sort things out.

"We're still willing to go meet with her. We want to meet with some of the board members on an individual basis," said Lopez. "Put everything on the table so they can learn about the problems of the cafeteria workers."

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