Pyle Rome Partner Terry Coles Helps UFCW Local 1445 Protect Food-Service Work at UMass Memorial

May 22, 2021

On May 17, a neutral arbitrator ordered UMass Memorial Medical Center (UMMMC) to stop using contractors to perform certain food-service work in hospital cafeterias. The case was brought by UFCW, Local 1445, which represents the UMass Memorial workers. Pyle Rome partner Terry Coles represented the Union in the matter and secured the victory.

The Union contract prohibits UMMMC from contracting out any work in the food service department "normally performed by a UFCW bargaining unit member." Despite this language, UMMMC installed a sushi station at one of the hospital cafeterias and used contract labor to perform the food preparation work even though unionized employees performed that work in every other area of the cafeteria. The hospital argued that sushi preparation was specialized work outside of the bargaining unit, but the arbitrator disagreed, noting that the job description for food service workers (created by the Hospital) did not specify what type of cuisine the employees would prepare. The arbitrator wrote: "If the Employer could carve out innovative preparation of particular foods, cuisines or other meal characteristics as non-bargaining unit work because they are innovative, the contract language 'normally performed,' when read in conjunction with duly-adopted job descriptions, would be rendered meaningless."

The case underscores the fact that employers cannot take away employees' work merely because of changes and innovations in the work they do.