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In a nearly unanimous vote Tuesday night, Brown Dining Services employees authorized their bargaining committee to call a strike if today's negotiations on a new contract do not yield a satisfactory agreement.

Officials on both sides will meet at 11 a.m. Wednesday to attempt to reach a consensus on the contentious issues of health care payments, retirement benefits for new hires and wage changes ahead of the looming expiration of the workers' contract at midnight Wednesday. The contract was extended by 48 hours, and a federal mediator was summoned to today's bargaining session, after negotiations failed to secure an agreement on Monday.

More than 120 of the approximately 200 employees congregated for a membership meeting Tuesday and expressed disapproval of the University's most recent proposal, said Roxana Rivera, the chief negotiator for the Service Employees International Union, Local 615, which represents the workers.

"It was loud and clear that workers don't believe that what the University is putting forward is just," Rivera said.

The University is confident that the two sides will reach a consensus today, Vice President for Public Affairs and University Relations Marisa Quinn wrote in an e-mail to The Herald Tuesday afternoon.

"If for some reason we are unable to accomplish this," she added, "we can agree to a further extension, or the University can present its final offer to the union membership for a vote to ratify or reject the same."

It is too early to predict whether another contract extension could be in the cards, or when a potential strike might begin, Rivera said. "We have to see tomorrow to see how we'll go forth in the next couple of days."



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