FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 21, 2014
CHICAGO— Today, Friday, November 21, school custodians and their supporters from area school districts, including Rockford, Elgin and Wheaton, rallied to protest school board inaction at the annual conference of the Illinois Association of School Boards at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Chicago.
“Thanksgiving should be a happy time, not a time to worry about a smaller paycheck,” said Shana Spearman, a custodian in the Rockford Public Schools District 205. “Working full-time without a single paid sick day or holiday isn’t right. We are just asking to be treated fairly.”
Custodians like Ms. Spearman have addressed their school boards at recent public meetings as well as sent letters to request support for better pay and basic benefits like paid holidays and sick days. They have reminded the school boards that it is within the boards’ power to dictate wage and benefit standards to the cleaning contractors they hire. Yet none have taken any action to support the men and women who keep their schools clean and their students and staff safe from illness.
“There is still time for these school districts to do the right thing for the men and women who keep their schools sanitary, some of whom have been on the job for ten years or more,” said Lonnell Saffold, a director with SEIU Local 1. “At a time when infectious disease outbreaks in schools are rampant, supporting paid sick time is not only an issue of respect, it is a serious safety issue.”
School boards have the authority to set standards for wages and benefits in their contracts and dictate these terms to the contractors they hire. The national trend of outsourcing janitorial work in public schools should not result in a race to the bottom. Instead of inflicting poverty jobs on workers and their families, public school districts should be providing good jobs that build strong communities.
SEIU Local 1 unites nearly 50,000 workers across six Midwestern states who are building an economy that works for all of us, not just the wealthy.
www.seiu1.org | @SEIULocal1 | www.Facebook.com/SEIULocal1
CHICAGO — School District U46’s night custodians, hoping to get higher pay and some paid days off from the private contractor who employs them, are continuing to apply pressure against the U46 school board.
As the Illinois Association of School Boards held its annual meeting in a Chicago hotel Friday, about five of the U46 workers joined about 30 custodians from the Service Employees International Union who work for school districts in Wheaton and Rockford. They held signs with messages such as “U46 teachers got raises. What about me?”
The 172 night custodians work for GCA Service Group of Knoxville, Tenn. Their contract expired in June and they finally agreed to a one-year extension that gave them no pay raise and no insurance or paid days off. Several members have spoken to the U46 Board of Education in recent weeks, asking board members to apply pressure on GCA to give them a better deal.
Hugo Barrientos, who works at Kimball Middle School, said he was on the picket line Friday.
“We haven’t had a raise in four years, and that raise was 10 cents an hour,” Barrientos said. “I was making $10.70 before that and now for four years I have been making $10.80. Last week I was so sick, I had to call my supervisor and say I couldn’t make it to work that day. I lost one day’s pay because we get no paid sick days.”
“Thanksgiving should be a happy time, not a time to worry about a smaller paycheck,” said Shana Spearman, a custodian in Rockford Public Schools District 205 who also was on the picket line. “Working full-time without a single paid sick day or holiday isn’t right.”
Lonnell Saffold, a director with SEIU Local 1, said it is within the school boards’ power to dictate wage and benefit standards to the cleaning contractors they hire.
“There is still time for you to ensure that the men and women who keep your schools clean and healthy—many of whom are parents of U46 children—are treated fairly,” Saffold wrote in a letter to U46 board members last week. “At a time when infectious disease outbreaks in schools are rampant, supporting paid sick time is not only an issue of respect, it is a serious safety issue.”
“The national trend of outsourcing janitorial work in public schools should not result in a race to the bottom,” Saffold said. “Instead of inflicting poverty jobs on workers and their families, public school districts should be providing good jobs that build strong communities.”
But during a U46 board meeting last month, most board members and district officials seemed reluctant to intervene in the dispute. Chief Operating Officer Jeff King said the district rehired GCA to do the work under a new contract just last spring, and that contract lasts through 2019.
King said the contract specifies that the company must pay at least a certain minimum wage to its workers, based on four levels of duties and experience, but requires no benefits.
“We don’t get involved in negotiations between a contractor and its employees,” King said in answer to questions that night from board member Veronica Noland. He said it’s up to a contractor like GCA to say, “This is what we pay,” and in letting such a contract, the school district usually is obligated to pick the lowest bidder.
Noland said at that meeting that she wonders why the district can’t just use its own employees.
“There are cost efficiencies involved,” King said.
***Advisory for Friday, November 21***
CHICAGO— On Friday, November 21 at 10:30 a.m. school custodians and their supporters from areas including Rockford, Elgin and Wheaton will rally to protest school board inaction at the annual conference of the Illinois Association of School Boards at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago (151 E Upper Wacker Drive).
WHAT: School Custodians Protest No Holiday/Sick Pay, Low Wages at Illinois Association of School Boards Annual Conference
WHEN: Friday, November 21, 2014 at 10:30 a.m.
WHERE: Hyatt Regency Chicago – 151 E Upper Wacker Dr.
WHO: SEIU Local 1 school custodians from Rockford, Elgin and Wheaton and their supporters
The custodians have been reaching out to their school districts’ boards of education, and testifying at their meetings to request support for better pay and basic benefits like paid holidays and sick days. The boards can dictate wage and benefit standards to the cleaning contractors they hire yet so far, none have taken any action to support the men and women who keep their schools clean and sanitized and their students and staff safe from illness. SEIU Local 1 unites nearly 50,000 workers across six Midwestern states who are building an economy that works for all of us, not just the wealthy.
More than 6,000 SEIU Local 1 security officers and their families will have more money in their pockets this holiday season. Local 1 security officers who work in buildings across the Chicagoland area unanimously ratified a new union contract on Saturday, November 8, 2014. They won raises of 25 cents an hour, improvements to their paid time off and a 67 percent reduction in employee healthcare contribution, dropping it from $300 down to $100. This victory enables more than 3,000 officers to get coverage who previously couldn’t afford it.
“Saving $200 a month in healthcare costs in addition to my raise will allow me to better care for me and my family,” said Kenyatta Sinclair, a security officer at the University of Chicago. “This is what can happen when working people unite together.”
By Corina Curry
Rockford Register Star | October 29. 2014
“You should use the taxpayers’ money to bring good jobs to the city,” said Carolina Villalobos, an organizer with Service Employees International Union, which represents the employees. “We’re here to ask for your help.”
Most of the district’s custodians work for $11 an hour, SEIU officials said. While they no longer are district employees — their work was outsourced in 2005 — small groups of school janitors have been attending board meetings in recent months, asking for the district’s support as they attempt to negotiate a new one-year contract with their employer, GCA Services Group.
The people who mop floors and empty garbage cans at the district’s 47 schools work full-time without health insurance, paid holidays or paid sick time. The group is asking for a 3 percent raise and benefits from GCA but has been unsuccessful. The current contract expires Friday.
The group is frustrated, members said, because the district has spent millions of dollars on facilities upgrades and building improvements in recent years, but when they ask for better working conditions to care for the buildings, they are told there are no funds.
Before 2005, Rockford’s public school custodians were district employees. The district put the contract out to bid that year. The employees unionized as SEIU Local 1 about eight years ago.
The district signed a three-year contract with GCA in May.
Illinois public school custodians in Rockford and Elgin receive no paid sick days and are not paid on school holidays, not even Christmas Day. No one should be forced to choose between spreading illness or sacrificing much-needed pay. Please take a few minutes to email these local school boards and urge them to support the men and women who keep our public schools clean and healthy.
ILLINOIS — “Right to work” hasn’t been a headline in the campaign for Illinois governor, but it could be one of the most controversial topics. The policy for a state, or municipalities inside it, to become a “right to work” community has been a divisive issue in states with large union presences. In Illinois, it could be just as divisive.
A right to work law would end mandatory payment of dues for workers in companies or government organizations with a union presence. Republican candidate Bruce Rauner has been on the record saying he would support “right to work” zones where a county or local municipality could decide for itself if it wished to implement the law.
Paul Kersey is labor policy director for the Illinois Policy Institute. It’s a conservative research group. Kersey says “right to work” is about giving employees back their rights.
“Workers can decide for themselves whether or not to join a union. You cannot be forced to join or pay dues or fees to a union as a condition for employment,” Kersey said.
The institute’s research shows right to work states are more attractive to businesses looking for a home.
“Employers want to know if there’s a union in the workplace, and it’s there because the workers really want it there,” Kersey said.
But Tom Balanoff, president of the Service Employees International Union Local 1, says the real reason companies look for right to work is because the loss in revenue drains unions’ bargaining power.
“What it will do is weaken workers’ ability to use their collective strength to protect their wages and benefits,” Balanoff said.
Rauner has suggested letting individual communities create right to work zones to attract business. Balanoff said promoting growth by weakening unions is not smart business in the long run.
“If we’re bringing companies in here,” he said, “and we’re telling them come to this state because you won’t have to pay taxes and you can pay workers less than you might pay in other places, that’s not a good idea.”
Balanoff said the biggest issue with right to work is it creates a free-rider system eroding union support. People who don’t pay are still required to be given all of the protections under their union contract. Rauner has said he would not advocate for a statewide right to work law.
On September 17, hundreds of Chicago area residential building engineers, maintenance staff and janitors voted nearly unanimously to ratify a new contract, effective December 1, 2014. The workers won increased pension funding, substantial wage increases and added benefits like more carried over sick time and a paid examination day each year.
Chicago’s residential workers formed SEIU Local 1 in the early 1900s. Learn more about them by watching this video:
At the September 6, 2014, membership meeting, a new SEIU Local 1 Executive Board was elected and sworn in. The slate of nominees was uncontested and the new board members were voted in by acclamation at every SEIU Local 1 membership meeting across our six states. We look forward to the new Executive Board’s leadership. You can read the list of the current board officers and members.
We also celebrate the years of service that the outgoing board members dedicated to their SEIU Local 1 brothers and sisters. Be sure to thank these leaders for all that they have done for working families in the Midwest.