Food service workers with the Hastings school district went on strike Tuesday morning after talks with the district have not led to a contract agreement.

About 20 food service workers, who serve lunch to the district's 4,200 students each day, rallied in front of Hastings City Hall after school ended Monday. Dressed in purple, they also held a purple "unions for all" banner.

"Tomorrow will be the first day of their strike," said Kelly Gibbons, executive director of SEIU Local 284, the food services workers union. "Regardless of what you're going to hear, the district has offered them a one-time amount of money, but it's the same thing that was offered in November and in November it wasn't good enough."

Julie Clark, a food service cook since 2020 at Hastings High School, said the workers have been waiting for a suitable contract since they first met with district officials in June. Their next mediation meeting was in September and they've had four mediation sessions since then.

"They've never brought any more money to the table, they just dispersed it differently," Clark said of the district.

The district's 35 food service workers want, at a minimum, a $3 an hour raise, Clark said. Cooks get paid about $15 now while dishwashers and cashiers earn $12 to $14 per hour.

Any raise "needs to be equitable across the board," Clark said, adding that right now the district's proposed contract pays staff who have been there 20 years or longer less than it would pay new hires. The new hires "would get quite a bit more," she said.

The district is struggling to hire staff so officials want to pay new staff more, she said.

Clark also noted that while the superintendent gets more than seven weeks of vacation, food service workers get just two days. Those days must be used if there's a snow day, for instance, she said.

"It's just not fair," Clark said. "The work we do with these kids ... should be appreciated. We care about our kids."

Superintendent Robert McDowell said Monday night in an email that the district had "short term and long term plans for both food and coverage of lunchrooms."

The secondary school menu for Tuesday showed several sandwich choices and a ham and cheese croissant option.