Press

Contact: press@seiu1.org

Janitors and Supporters Rally in Chicagoland and Around Midwest to Raise America with Good Jobs

SEIU Pres. Balanoff: People who work for a living should be able to make a living

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Wednesday, October 29, 2014

CONTACT: Press@seiu1.org

CHICAGO — More than 100 SEIU Local 1 member janitors and their supporters rallied together on Tuesday, October 28, 2014 the Thompson Center in support of good jobs in the city and around the country.

Contracts for 160,000 janitors will expire over the next year. Chicago has the third highest poverty rate in the country, second highest foreclosure rate, and highest rate of racial income disparity of all major cities in the U.S.

SEIU Local 1 President Tom Balanoff said about these alarming statistics, “Clearly, the recession may have ended for Chicago’s rich and powerful – but not for everyone else,”

“It’s time Chicago worked for its people who work for a living,” Balanoff added. “We have to protect wages and benefits instead of tax breaks for billionaires. It’s time to stop shrinking the middle class: restore balance, revive neighborhoods and build an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy few.”

Many more rallies and events during this national week of action with Justice for Janitors are being held in the following locations:

  • Chicago:
    • Oakbrook: Wed., October 29, 3:45 pm, Corner of 22nd (Cermak) and Butterfield Rd.
    • Schaumburg: Thus., October 30, 3:30 pm, Corner of Meacham Rd. & American Lane
    • O’Hare: Thurs., October 30, 4pm, E. River R and W. Bryn Mawr Rd.
  • Cincinnati: Wed., October 29, 1pm, SEIU Local 1 office (917 Main St., First Floor)
  • Cleveland: Thurs., October 30, Noon, Perk Park on E. 12th and Chester
  • Detroit: Thurs., October 30, 2014 at 12Noon, New Center One (3031 W Grand Blvd #800)
  • Indianapolis: Thurs., October 30, 12Noon at Circle Tower, 55 Monument Circle
  • Milwaukee: Thurs., October 30, Noon, BMO Harris Bank 770 N. Water St.
  • St. Louis: Fri., October 31, details TBD

Watch Local 1’s twitter (twitter.com/SEIULocal1) and Facebook (facebook.com/SEIULocal1) feeds for live photos of the rallies. This week’s events set the stage for a showdown with building owners and contractors over agreements that create good jobs, boost employment, and help restore balance to our economy.

# # #

 

Service Employees International Union Local 1 unites more than 50,000 workers throughout Mid-America. SEIU security officers, food service workers, and janitors are working with community leaders to advocate for the quality services the public deserves and the good jobs our communities need.

Did you like this? Share it:
Comments Off

Washington University adjunct faculty take a step toward unionization [St. Louis Post Dispatch]

washington univA group of Washington University adjunct instructors have taken a crucial step toward forming a union.

The Service Employees International Union Local 1 has filed a petition for a union election with the federal government on the instructors’ behalf.

The petition makes Washington University’s adjunct faculty the first such group in St. Louis to reach that milestone amid a larger nationwide push for higher pay and improved job security.

Adjuncts are typically part-time, low-wage faculty who teach classes when full-time instructors are already overloaded with courses.

Among their major complaints are low wages and a lack of job security. Adjuncts typically work on semester-long contracts, not knowing whether they will be asked to work beyond their current semester.

Leonard Perez, an administrator with the National Labor Relations Board for the St. Louis region, said his agency could hold a hearing between Washington University and the SEIU as early as Friday.

The hearing, Perez explains, would come only if the university challenges whether adjuncts have the proper standing for the SEIU to represent them.

The university could also go the other way, Perez said, and voluntarily agree to a union election. At that point, it would be a matter of scheduling the date and time of a secret ballot election.

Washington University Provost Holden Thorp said although the university has been aware of the effort to unionize for months, administrators have not yet decided how to respond to the petition.

“We are very mindful of the concerns our adjuncts have. We are always looking for new ways to help with (job security),” Thorp said. He added that Washington University typically offers adjuncts higher wages than other schools.

Also, WU administrators are considering creating space for adjuncts to hold office hours and granting them more input within their respective departments on which classes are taught, Thorp said.

Much of the noise surrounding the unionization of adjuncts has come from the SEIU’s Adjunct Action campaign.

The SEIU has said the campaign is meant to address the chronically poor working conditions adjuncts face.

Adjunct Action scored a major victory Friday when Tufts University agreed to a contract with roughly 200 part-time faculty guaranteeing them a 22 percent pay raise over the next three years. The contract also offers one-year contracts and a first crack at full-time openings.

Elizabeth Lemons, part-time instructor in Tufts’ religion department since 1999, said the yearlong effort to unionize was largely painless.

“I’d characterize the negotiations as nonadversarial and more geared toward problem-solving,” Lemons said. “It was about justice and fairness.”

Chris Boehm, 33, is hoping for a similar result. Boehm has been working at Washington University as an adjunct writing instructor since 2011. He teaches either two or three classes a semester, earning between $18,000 and $24,000 a year.

Boehm, who works on semester-long contracts, said he can never be sure if he’s going to be employed six months into the future. For the past year, he’s been working with the SEIU to build support for unionization.

Washington University has slightly more than 400 adjunct positions. Generally, the threshold for filing a petition for a union election requires 30 percent participation from a group, or 120 adjunct faculty in the case of Washington University.

Boehm said he doesn’t know exactly how many adjuncts support forming a union, but those who are in favor typically share a similar outlook.

“I think we want some sort of job security,” he said. “Full benefits and livable wage would also be nice.”

Boehm’s story is a familiar one among adjuncts. After earning a Ph.D. in 2012, he’s struggled to find full-time work.

“I’ve been looking for a full-time job for the last three years,” he said. “I’ve tried at high schools, community colleges, major research institutions, private liberal arts schools … I’ve applied for just about everything.”

For Thorp, Washington University’s provost, Boehm’s plight is indicative of a larger issue among the country’s colleges and universities.

He said leaders in higher education haven’t devoted enough thought to whether the country’s job market can support the number of Ph.D. graduates that universities produce.

“There’s a reason we can go and get someone to teach these classes for a few thousand (dollars),” Thorp said. “It’s because there are Ph.D.s out there who couldn’t get a full-time or a tenure-track job. We need for universities to come together and really grapple with this.”

Did you like this? Share it:
Comments Off

“Union issue” still in background of governor’s campaign [WCIA TV Springfield]

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.

http://www.illinoishomepage.net/story/d/story/union-issue-still-in-background-of-governors-campa/11172/a4Nd0fWvXk66UniOyGTTpQ

Did you like this? Share it:
Comments Off

U46 Custodians Working without Contract, Want More Equal Treatment [Courier News]

Dave Gathman | dgathman@stmedianetwork.com | Oct. 9 7:27 p.m.

hugo courier news picELGIN — Even as Elgin Community College apparently has settled the issue of possibly outsourcing its custodial duties, custodians who already are working for an outside company in District U46 K-12 schools are involved in a heated labor negotiation. They say they want benefits and pay more equal to that enjoyed by custodian/maintenance people working alongside them who are employed directly by District U46.

District U46 now has two sets of custodian/maintenance people. One group, who work mainly in the daytime, work 40 hours a week. They handle more challenging maintenance duties, work as U46 employees, get a healthy package of benefits and are represented by a union named the Educational Support Service Organization (ESSO). These people have a contract through 2016.

But since 2006 the 180 custodians who clean up all U46 schools at night or work as additional cleaning staff in the daytime at high schools and middle schools, are employed by an outside company named GCA Service Group, based in Knoxville, Tenn. The school district contracted with GCA to provide those services. GCA in turn hires the workers, who are represented by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

SEIU organizer Carolina Villalobos said the labor contract between that second tier of custodians and GCA expired June 30. As representatives of the union and GCA continue to negotiate, the current contract conditions were extended, but Villalobos said that extension also will expire Oct. 31.

The pay and benefits between the two groups contrast drastically. According to U46’s contract with the ESSO workers, they get 14 paid holidays per year, including the Good Friday “Spring Holiday” and the day after Thanksgiving. They get 10 days of paid vacation after one year on the job, growing to 20 days of vacation after 15 years of service. They get up to 10 days per year of sick leave, which can accrue from year to year without limit.

They also get health insurance, for which they must pay 10 percent of the taxpayers’ cost. They get dental insurance and $30,000 worth of life insurance. And the school district and they share the cost of accumulating pension benefits through the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund.

And their pay ranges from about $14 per hour, for a middle-school night custodian for a relief custodian, to more than $35 per hour for a maintenance foreman.

The GCA custodians, on the other hand, get no benefits at all and make barely more than the minimum wage, according to Kimball Middle School custodian Hugo Barrientos.

Barrientos took his group’s case to the U46 Board of Education this week, asking board members to do whatever they can to influence GCA in the labor talks.

“We are employees but we are also parents,” Barrientos said during the board meeting’s public-comment time. “We work hard to ensure a clean and healthy environment for students, teachers and staff. But we are struggling to make ends meet.”

For example, Barrientos said that because the GCA workers get no sick pay, they often come to school sick, which could spread germs to the children in their schools.

He said later that after working in U46 schools for 12 years — the last eight as a GCA employee — he makes $10.80 an hour for a 35-hour work week. Some of his coworkers make as little as $9, he said.

Barrientos said the GCA people who work in the daytime, as he does, do many of the same thing as their higher-paid, benefits-endowed counterparts who are employed directly by the school district. Besides cleaning the cafeteria after meals, he said, he changes light bulbs and ballasts, shovels snow, and helps students open uncooperative lockers.

GCA officials could not be reached for comment.

“I don’t know what we could do” about the situation, U46 CEO Tony Sanders said after the meeting. He said he believes GCA was chosen by the school district as the lowest-cost responsible vendor to provide such services, and the way they compensate their employees must at least meet the minimum requirements of the state prevailing wage law.

When Elgin Community College recently went looking for an outside company to provide consulting services for its all-in-house custodial work, GCA was one of five companies that submitted a bid. But ECC leaders picked another firm because its fee was much lower and that firm specialized in consulting work.

http://couriernews.suntimes.com/2014/10/09/u46-custodians-working-without-contract-want-equal-treatment/

Did you like this? Share it:
Comments Off

Chicago Public Schools Under Fire Over Dirty Conditions, Rotten Food [Huffington Post]

CHICAGO — The new school year is off to a messy start in Chicago, the nation’s third-largest school district.

Michael Flynn, who has taught sixth grade at Otis Elementary in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood since 1977, said he’s never seen his school dirtier. A whole floor went untouched overnight recently, leaving surfaces unswept and heaps of garbage in classrooms.

“It’s a germ factory,” Flynn told HuffPost. “And it’s as bad now as it’s ever been in terms of kids not getting what they need.”

The Chicago Public School system has faced notorious budget cuts in recent years, and closed 49 schools in 2013. Recent money-saving moves to privatize management of custodial and cafeteria services have drawn the ire of parents and faculty, who have alleged schools are dirtier — and school lunches are worse — than ever.

A teacher at a high school on the city’s Southwest Side, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisal from the district, described where he’s taught for the past eight years as “gross and disgusting.”

“We’re running out of toilet paper,” he said. “I’m seeing more bugs than ever before. There’s overflowing trash that sits for days and weeks in some cases.”

The teacher said his classroom has had a leaky ceiling that’s gone unfixed for two years, and roaches were recently spotted in a student locker room, causing students to avoid using the showers after phys ed class.

“It’s gross and disgusting and my health is being affected,” he said. “I want to be outside the minute I’m in here. It smells. Everything smells and I can’t focus. If I can’t focus to teach, how can kids focus to learn?”

The complaints follow the school district’s hiring of Philadelphia-based Aramark in February to supervise and train school custodians. Aramark in the spring pulled many custodians from their longtime schools and assigned them to a floating pool of janitors. This led to fewer permanent custodians in schools, and talk of layoffs.

CPS chief administrative officer Tim Cawley introduced the Aramark custodial contract by telling school principals, who were previously responsible for managing custodians, that service under Aramark would be “like Jimmy John’s,” with fast responses. Aramark, Cawley said, would make schools cleaner at a lower cost.

But the new management system has left many Chicago schools markedly messier. Some people have taken to using the Twitter hashtag #CPSfilth to document the conditions, including this shot purportedly taken inside a school restroom:

A teacher at an elementary school in Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood, who asked to remain anonymous because she feared punishment, said her school has gone weeks without soap in student restrooms, causing teachers to buy some with their own money. The teacher said she bought toilet paper for her students to use. As classroom trash piles up, flies and gnats have become common, she said.

Several recent surveys corroborate these conditions. A survey of about 230 CPS principals and administrators conducted by AAPLE, an arm of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association, found that dirty schools have become common this year. Another survey, conducted by the parent activist group Raise Your Hand CPS. found concerns with school cleanliness. And a Chicago Teachers Union survey conducted in June reports that maintenance problems were surfacing in the spring.

The messy conditions attracted criticism from the Chicago Board of Education at last month’s meeting, held on Sept. 24. Less than a week later, Aramark, CPS and Service Employees International Union Local 1, which represents the district’s privately employed custodians, announced changes to planned layoffs of custodians. Instead of firing 468 CPS janitors at the end of September, the district will lay off 290 at the end of October.

garbage

A photo taken inside a Southwest Side high school this spring, after the Aramark contract went into effect.

Karen Cutler, an Aramark spokeswoman, told HuffPost in a statement that the company was doing everything in its power to maintain quality. “CPS, Aramark and SEIU Local 1 continue to work closely to make sure all CPS schools have appropriate custodial staffing levels to ensure clean schools,” Cutler said. She added that the company has brought in additional managers at its own expense to help train CPS custodians to use new equipment she touted as “more efficient” and “environmentally friendly.”

Aramark’s three-year, $260 million contract will save the cash-strapped district $40 million to $54 million over its life, school officials have said. (SodexoMAGIC, a private company that’s 51 percent owned by former basketball star Magic Johnson, has an $80 million contract to oversee custodial services at 33 of the district’s 522 schools as part of a pilot program outsourcing all maintenance.)

Aramark had already been working with the school district. The company signed a $97 million-a-year contract for food service in 2013. The district said the deal can be renewed three times and will save taxpayers $12 million annually.

Many teachers, quick to point out they blame neither the custodians nor the principals for the filth, say conditions aren’t getting better. They’re also turning attention to Aramark-managed school lunches.

A teacher at a South Side elementary school, who asked to remain anonymous to protect her job, told HuffPost her students have been fed “disgusting” meals under Aramark. She claimed the children were repeatedly served rotten apples last spring and were given moldy bread last month. She also said the cafeteria served spoiled broccoli that was eaten by some students before workers discovered it.

moldy bread

The teacher said that like at most Chicago schools, 90 percent of the students at her school come from low-income homes, so the food they are served at school is a main source of nutrition for them.

“I’m so nervous these kids will get sick,” she said. “It breaks my heart because these are kids at our school that in general we know are going home and not getting food at home. They’re getting kind of junk for a meal.”

Others HuffPost interviewed for this article had no complaints about school food service. Some lauded Aramark for upgrading some schools with “warming” kitchens for pre-packaged frozen foods, to “cooking” kitchens that allow preparation of healthier and better-tasting meals.

Aramark was criticized earlier this year when a WBEZ reporter, inquiring about the ingredients of cafeteria chicken nuggets, was told the lone ingredient was “chicken nuggets.”

The company also has been faulted for its ties to the school district. Leslie Fowler, the district’s head of nutritional support services, worked at Aramark before she was hired by the school district — a connection that prompted allegations from a competing company that she had played an inappropriate role in the bid process. The school district’s new communications chief, Ron Iori, hired in June, also previously worked for Aramark.

CPS did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Other school districts also have reportedly had trouble with Aramark. The Philadelphia School District resumed operating its cafeterias two years into its contract with Aramark in 2007 because it was dissatisfied. The Houston Independent School District considered terminating its agreement with Aramark in 2011, but ultimately renewed its contract.

The Chicago Tribune reports that at the Sept. 24 school board meeting, Cawley took responsibility for Aramark’s new role, but maintained that the “vast, vast majority” of Chicago schools are as clean or cleaner than ever.

Tom Balanoff, SEIU Local 1 president, told HuffPost he believed the reduced layoffs and Aramark technological changes will help custodians “be able to maintain the level of cleanliness” needed. If more issues arise, he said he would hope CPS will rehire more custodians.

“They’re going through the motions,” said Jennie Biggs, a parent of three CPS students. Last month, she told the Board of Education a student vomited on a classroom rug on a Friday afternoon and the mess remained uncleaned the following Monday. “It’s disturbing that people in the school are actually taking appropriate steps to try and get someone to address it, and they’re being ignored,” she said.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/08/chicago-public-schools-dirty_n_5922982.html

Did you like this? Share it:
Comments Off

VIDEO! KCPS Launches Program to Help Put an end to bullying [KCTV 5 News]

KCTV5

KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) - The Kansas City Public School District just launched a new program this week to try to put an end to bullying.

In it, schools will have new rules against it and teachers will go through special training.

While this program is new to the school district, one woman who works there has already been working to stop bullies in their tracks.

Desiree Saunders’ kitchen at the cafeteria at Northeast High School is a bully-free zone. Bullying isn’t tolerated by Saunders and her campaign is changing attitudes for students throughout the school.

“Because you get a lot more bees with honey,” she said.

The bees Saunders is talking about are troubled students. Respect is her honey.

“I care. A lot of these students go through a lot. They’re paying bills at home. These are the only two meals a student gets a day,” she said.

Saunders calls every student by their first name and, in return, they lovingly call her Miss D.

“Some of the students here, believe it or not, they just want to interact, they just want you to say something to them, show that you do care,” she said.

The lunch lady’s caring approach is to curb bullying at Northeast High School.

“Students being bullied for their food, being bullied for money. I’ve seen students in here writing papers for students because they say, ‘Hurry up do my work’. No, we’re not going to do that,” Saunders said.

When the teens walk in, Miss D gets on her microphone and begins her lesson.

“I’ll say, you know, ‘That’s one of your classmates, that’s your little brother or your little sister, so we have to stick together, we have to protect each other,’” she said.

Every year Miss D recruits for her anti-bully squad. She gets the cool kids to stick up for the students being bullied.
“We need our anti-bully squad to be ready for anyone who needs it,” Saunders said.

Johnisha Griffin was one such student. Classmates picked on her for the way she dressed. That was before Miss D stepped in and gave her a new focus.

“By being myself. Telling me to go far in life and get my education,” Griffin said.

“The bullying has stopped and everyone is a fan of Johnisha Griffin,” Sanders said. I’m here for the person who’s not going to speak up for themselves. I am one of a few good men, so I’m here for that.”

Students at the school have said that while there’s no bullying in the lunch room, it does find its way in the classroom and district officials want to put a stamp to that.

KCPS’ new anti-bullying program is based off of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program. It focuses on four core components that include school-level, classroom-level, individual-level and community-level. Click here to find out exactly how it focuses on those four components.

KCPS’ program will train more teachers to stop the problem by responding to the problem just like Miss D.

By Laura McCallister and Erika Tallan, August 14, 2014.

Did you like this? Share it:
Comments Off

School Board Chooses Primary Attorney; Renews Contract With CleanPower [Portage Gazette]

The Stevens Point Board of Education officially made the law firm Boardman & Clark its primary law firm at the Monday, Aug. 11, meeting.

The board agreed that if special circumstances arise it will be able to call on other firms but the district should make an effort to use the primary law firm first in all cases possible.

All members except for Chris Scott voted in favor of Boardman & Clark. The other choices were Davis & Kuelthau and Weld, Reilly, Prenn & Ricci. The Business Services Committee select these three firms from the six that responded to a Request for Proposal (RFP).

An RFP for legal services was sent out after the June 9 meeting when board member Jeff Presley said he was concerned about the amount of money the district was spending on attorneys. The RFP was sent to 18 firms, and the three were invited to the Monday meeting for presentations.

“I have been involved with the Stevens Point school district since 1997,” said Michael Julka, the representative from Boardman & Clark who spoke at the meeting. “I have represented the district since that time. I appreciate the role we have played and I would like to continue that role.”

The firm currently represents 90 school districts as well as the School Board Association. The firm has 12 attorneys and one paralegal in its school law practice group, as well as additional attorneys in other fields that it can use for school district issues.

The board has not had an official primary law firm in the past, but rather has used the services of multiple firms simultaneously. Davis & Kuelthau has been used by the board most frequently up to this point.

“I am looking for consistency first of all with the firm that we handle,” said board member Jeff Presley. “For the main stay of the district’s business we should pick a firm whom we feel comfortable with not only as a board but also for our superintendent to use. That is our responsibility by our own policies.”

The board did discuss whether or not it wanted to continue using multiple firms but found wording in its policies that suggest it should have one primary law firm.

“I think a lot of the reason we end up using two law firms is because an opinion will come to this board and the board doesn’t like it,” said board member Jeff Ebel. “So you go get a second opinion.”

CleanPower contract renewed

The School Board renewed its contract with the janitorial contracting service CleanPower for the remainder of the fiscal year, which will end in June of 2015.

The decision came after several delays and contract extensions so the board could consider other options. Several board members have received complaints about CleanPower. The board asked the administration in April to present other options beside CleanPower for janitorial services.

The administration came back in July and presented options to hire district employees to replace CleanPower, but warned the board it would not be able to afford sustaining the salary of all district employees.

The board delayed the contract again in July, asking for more time to consider the budget before making a decision.

“We have been dealing with this issue for months, you have been delaying your decision and now we have kids coming in two weeks,” said Thomas Owens, director of business services. “No matter what you decide, we can’t do something in a week or two very effectively. From an administrative logistical aspect, it’s impossible to hire that many people in this short of time and be ready by Sept. 2.”

Board Member Patricia Baker said she did not want to hire CleanPower again but would be willing to do so until she could have a better understanding of the budget and have time to send out a new RFP for other contractors.

“We kind of left this up to the administration over and over,” said board member Kim Shirek. “We and the community said we do not want CleanPower in (our schools). They should have come up with some other opportunities. I suggested from day one when our community didn’t want CleanPower in there that we go with a different service.”

In the past several months four other schools have discontinued their contracts with CleanPower including, Waukesha County Technical College, Lakeshore Technical College, Turtle Lake School District and Fond Du Lac School District.

“We weren’t happy with the recommendation, we asked the administration to come back to us with different alternatives,” said board member Lisa Totten. “There is no way I am going to support this.”

CleanPower president Jeffrey Packee spoke Monday.

“I am not going to stand up here and defend ourselves, we are going to stand on our record,” said Packee. “We do a very good job with you, we are very flexible with you, with positions times, shifts and everything else.”

The Business Services Committee will meet in September and discuss alternatives to CleanPower. The district can terminate its contract with 30 days’ notice if it so chooses.

Did you like this? Share it:
Comments Off

Adjunct Faculty Exploring Unionization [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]

53f805d4858c1.preview-620Nine months out of the year, Andrew Nelson works about 50 hours a week, driving his 1995 Mazda on either 50- or 100-mile round trips every weekday to his college teaching gigs at Lindenwood University in St. Charles and East Central College in Union.

He gets paid just $22,000 a year combined — without the benefit of a retirement package or health care coverage.

Nelson is one of an estimated 4,000 adjunct faculty working in the St. Louis area. All together, they make up the working class of the academic community. They are the low-wage earners who teach classes when full-time faculty are already overloaded with heavy course loads, and they fill in when teaching departments are short-staffed.

For the past few years, a number of shadow campaigns to unionize adjunct faculty have bubbled up at area colleges in the hopes of giving those workers job security, a voice in campus decision-making and to negotiate for benefits and better pay.

While a number of those campaigns have fizzled out before they could gain traction, college leaders have been reluctant to speak about the issue publicly. Privately, however, they acknowledge that it’s a growing movement nationally.

Colleges and universities around the country have been relying on adjuncts more and more as a way to save money as state funding for higher education continues a steady decline now approaching 25 years.

That trend picked up steam in recent years. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that states spent about $2,300, or 28 percent, less per student in 2013 than in 2008.

What the money crunch means for teachers such as Nelson, who has a master’s degree in English from the University of Missouri-Columbia, is that low-paying adjunct positions are plentiful, while full-time faculty jobs are not.

Nelson gets paid about $2,500 a semester for every three-credit course he teaches. So he picks up as many courses as he can, splitting his time between two universities to make ends meet.

But, he said, it’s not just about money.

“The most important thing is that we have no input into the departments we work in. We have no say on textbooks, either,” he said. “So other people determine what we are going to teach and how we are going to teach it.”

Nelson also said adjuncts miss out on holding office hours to better connect with students, plus paid faculty development days which help instructors become better at their jobs.

UNCERTAIN WORK

A congressional report released in January by the Democratic staff of the House Education and the Workforce Committee suggests that Nelson’s concerns are shared broadly by adjunct professors nationwide. The report found that 98 percent of respondents to an online forum said they were “missing opportunities to better serve their students because of the demands of their schedule.”

The report acknowledges that some who serve as adjunct professors do so to supplement the income from other full-time jobs. But increasingly, the report found, instructors are cobbling together multiple adjunct jobs as colleges rely on them “to do the bulk of the work of educating students.”

“The trend should be of concern to policymakers both because of what it means for the living standards and work lives of those individuals we expect to educate the next generation of scientists, entrepreneurs, and other highly skilled workers, and what it may mean for the quality of higher education itself,” the report states.

The report, titled “The Just-in-Time Professor,” draws connections to trends in fast food and retail employment, where workers have little to no means of predicting their work schedules.

That’s been a complaint of Gail Brody, one of six adjunct faculty working alongside two full-time instructors in the architectural program at St. Louis Community College at Meramec in Kirkwood.

Brody has been at the school for 20 years, but, as an adjunct, her schedule is determined by which classes fill up with students and which faculty are available to teach those classes.

She said she generally only finds out whether she will be teaching and what courses she will have just days before each semester starts.

“So you don’t really know if you are going to have that part of your income,” she said. In the meantime, Brody works a retail job that offers her health care coverage.

“The school wouldn’t keep me around for 20 years if I wasn’t a good instructor,” she said. “But you can’t depend on adjunct money. I would be on board with unionizing if it would lead to health care benefits and some consistency.”

‘A SERVANT SUBCLASS’

The Service Employees International Union has been leading the push at several St. Louis-area colleges, and while the organization doesn’t like to state publicly which schools it is looking at, teachers at Lindenwood, St. Louis Community College at Meramec and St. Louis University have said they have been approached.

Nancy Cross, vice president of the SEIU Local 1, said unionizing adjunct faculty has taken on greater significance over the years as full-time faculty positions dry up.

“You have people who spent a lot of time and money to get highly educated with the idea that there was going to be full-time positions available,” she said. “So they leave college with a lot of loans and the full-time positions aren’t there anymore.”

Cross’ point is one that has some traction in Washington. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., has been pushing a loan forgiveness program for adjunct faculty.

Durbin’s office reports that from 1991 to 2011, the number of part-time faculty doubled, with many of those workers being adjunct teachers who have an annual income of $25,000 or less, on average.

Durbin argues that adjunct faculty who try to support themselves solely by teaching end up working at multiple schools and carrying a full-time workload but without benefits including paid sick days, vacation and access to health care.

“The vast majority of these educators hold advanced degrees, and as a result, bear the heavy burden of student loan debt,” Durbin said in a statement. “It is only right that we expand their access to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, a benefit already available to many of their full-time colleagues.”

Even though adjunct faculty appear to have some national support, it’s unclear how their attempts to unionize will play with full-time faculty in the area.

St. Louis University mathematics professor Steve Harris said he welcomes unionization for adjuncts. He said their current role is that of “a servant subclass,” and that needs to be fixed.

But Dennis Michaelis, St. Louis Community College’s interim chancellor, said he knows of full-time faculty who are against collective bargaining for adjuncts.

Michaelis wouldn’t elaborate, but the common argument is that as adjuncts get a larger share of the pie, there is a possibility that full-time faculty will see their share shrink.

Bob Thumith, SLCC’s director of human resources, said the SEIU’s aggressive tactics — petitioning faculty outside classrooms and elsewhere on campuses — has turned a lot of people off.

“These types of things are supposed to happen organically,” he said. “A lot of teachers don’t like to be bothered in their classrooms.”

Thumith said a push for unionization at SLCC campuses is dying down, as far as he knows.

Whether unionization for adjuncts takes off in the St. Louis area, Southern Illinois University President Randall Dunn said schools will have to adapt.

Forming a union is the logical “response to the second-class-citizen status adjunct faculty have at many institutions,” Dunn said.

If a push to unionize at one of his campuses was successful, it would simply become a more complex budgeting matter.

“We’d have to find the money from other sources,” he said. “Some administrators look at collective bargaining as this terrible thing. I don’t view it that way. It’s a part of doing business.”

By Koran Addo for St. Louis Post-Dispatch; August 24, 2014.

Did you like this? Share it:
Comments Off

More Families Rely On One Low-Paying Job To Survive [Cincinnati Enquirer]

leadlowwagejobs1

Dina Smith of Cumminsville, center rear, works as a janitor. Daughter Evelyn Smith, 23, lives on her own, but Dina Smith supports sons Shauhn Smith, 20, left, Davon Hill, 14, and Bentley Hill, 18. (Photo by Joseph Fuqua III)

Dina Smith sits down at the kitchen table with a small stack of bills every two weeks and asks herself the same question.

“What needs to be taken care of right this second?”

Her twice-monthly paycheck of about $350 means her options are usually limited to paying utilities and restocking a near-empty refrigerator. She’ll put off repairs to her broken-down 2001 Saturn – again – and try to find a few dollars for bus fare instead.

This is life today in one of the tens of thousands of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky households that survive on the paycheck of a low-wage breadwinner.

Now, their numbers are growing faster, putting more families at risk and slowing an already fragile economic recovery regionwide. Everyone feels the sting when households have less money for homes, furniture, cars, TVs, toasters, smartphones and new shoes.

It’s a legacy of the crash that families and the wider economy may suffer with for years.

A study by the National Employment Law Project finds that low-wage jobs, or those it defines as paying less than $14 an hour, have dominated the economic recovery, often at the expense of better-paying jobs.

The group’s Census-based research shows that low-wage jobs accounted for about 20 percent of job losses during the recession, but almost 60 percent of jobs gained during the recovery.

Mid-wage jobs, by contrast, accounted for 60 percent of recession losses, but only about 20 percent of recovery growth.

“It’s very challenging,” said Smith, who supports three sons in Cumminsville on the $9.80 an hour she earns working as a janitor. “We have to live paycheck to paycheck.”

Life ‘more precarious’ for low-wage workers

Low-wage jobs always have been an important part of the economy, whether they’re fast-food jobs that give teenagers their first taste of the working world, or entry-level jobs for adults who want to learn a trade or bring in some extra money for their family.

The difference now is that those jobs increasingly are supporting families, rather than supplementing the income of a better-paid breadwinner.

Since the recession, the number of households with one wage earner has climbed almost 6 percent, according to the U.S. Census. At the same time, the median income of households with one wage earner has fallen almost 4 percent.

So as more families have become reliant on one income, the value of that income has dropped.

“Their lives are more precarious,” said Randy Albelda, an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, who has studied the expansion of low-wage jobs. “When a large number of people supporting families can’t do it, then you have a problem.”

The trend toward more low-wage breadwinners has helped fuel the national debate over raising the minimum wage, which is $7.95 in Ohio and $7.25 in Indiana, Kentucky and other states tied to the federal minimum wage.

Albelda’s latest research found that as many as 20 million people, about half the low-wage workers in America, are household breadwinners. She defined low-wage breadwinners as primary earners who make less than $11 an hour, or about $23,000 a year.

She estimated that between 10 and 14 percent of adult workers now earn a low wage and rely on those earnings to support a household, the biggest share since at least the 1980s.

The instability of low-wage jobs often creates as many problems as the low pay, Albelda said. Benefits typically are minimal, or non-existent, and layoffs or reduced hours are common as employers try to shave costs.

That’s certainly been Smith’s experience. She once worked full eight-hour days, but those hours have been cut to less than five since the recession.

If she misses work because of illness, as she did a few weeks ago, she doesn’t get paid. If her car breaks down, as it did last month, she’s dependent on the bus.

1975009_10151935837871396_2039711247_nSmith, 43, has considered looking for a job with more hours, but after eight years with the same company, she fears starting over elsewhere will leave her more vulnerable to layoffs. She’s also thinking about taking on a second job, something she’s done in the past.

“A lot of janitors I know work two or three jobs. I’ve been there, done that,” Smith said. “We should be able to work one job, a respectable job, to live.”

Smith doesn’t receive food stamps or other public assistance, and she moved out of public housing and in with a friend because she felt the neighborhood was getting too rough for her 14-year-old son. Her daughter lives on her own, but her other sons, ages 20 and 18, still live at home.

Smith pays utilities and groceries; her friend pays the rent. She’s the only one in her household with a steady job and knows her family can’t survive on her income forever, especially if her hours get cut again.

“I may end up having to sleep in a car, and I don’t want to do that,” she said.

Competition greater for low-paying jobs

Smith, who has a high school diploma, is in some ways a typical low-wage worker. According to Albelda’s study, more than 54 percent are women, 43 percent are minorities and more than 90 percent don’t have a college degree.

During the recession, however, more educated workers slipped into the ranks of low-wage earners, which created problems not only for them, but for the less-educated workers they sometimes displaced.

“It’s a bit more competitive now,” said Chris Janson, Cincinnati metro market manager for the Robert Half staffing agency. “We’ve got folks willing to take less than they’re worth. They’re willing to do it for a limited time, until something better comes along.”

Janson said starting pay for some of those temporary jobs is between $10 and $15 an hour, although he said salaries are beginning to creep up and more options are becoming available to workers as the economy improves.

How much it will improve – and how long it will take wages to reach pre-recession levels – is a question economists have been wrestling with for years. Some fear lower pay and fewer benefits will become the new normal, because the labor pool is large and companies have learned to get by with less.

“This recession was an opportunity for a lot of employers to clear out a lot of people,” Albelda said. “It’s workers on demand now. In industry, they call it just-in-time inventory. So this is just-in-time workers.”

Growing uncertainty in the job market means households would be better off with a second wage earner, regardless of how much the primary wage earner is making. The Economic Mobility Project of the Pew Charitable Trusts has found that many families now require at least two incomes to match or exceed the household income of the previous generation.

“Mobility is increasingly a family enterprise,” said Diana Elliott, a research officer at Pew. “Families need those second earners’ money to move them up the income ladder.”

The impact of more low-wage breadwinners isn’t limited to the breadwinners’ families. If paychecks cover little more than rent, utilities and groceries, the broader economy doesn’t benefit much.

“People have to make a lot of very tough choices,” said Leslie Mendoza Kamstra, spokeswoman for the Service Employees International Union Local 1, which represents janitors, such as Smith, and security officers. “It’s not a high school kid. It’s someone supporting a family.”

Low-paying jobs have been part of Smith’s life since she started working more than 25 years ago. There was a time, she said, when those jobs were more plentiful, the hours were more reliable and the pay was better.

Today, Smith said, that stability is gone. Finding a new job, or a second job, may be the only way she can continue to support her family.

But she said that’s no easy task, either.

“It’s hard to find one job,” she said. “There’s so many people out here looking.” ■

 

More households survive on one (shrinking) income

Households with one wage earner in 2007: 43.3 million

Households with one wage earner in 2012: 45.8 million

Percent change since 2007: +5.8 percent

Median income of households with one wage earner in 2007: $45,082

Median income of households with one wage earner in 2012: $43,335

Percent change since 2007: –3.9 percent

Source: U.S. Census

Low-paying jobs rebound faster from recession

Share of job losses in recession

Low-wage jobs – 21 percent

Mid-wage jobs – 60 percent

High-wage jobs – 19 percent

Share of job gains in recovery

Low-wage jobs – 58 percent

Mid-wage jobs – 22 percent

High-wage jobs – 20 percent

Definitions: Low-wage jobs are defined as median hourly wages of $7.69 to $13.83, mid-wage jobs are $13.84 to $21.13, and high-wage jobs are $21.14 to $54.55.

Source: National Employment Law Project analysis of U.S. Census data

What is the minimum wage?

Ohio: $7.95 for non-tipped employees; $3.98 for tipped employees

Kentucky: $7.25 for non-tipped employees; $2.13 for tipped employees

Indiana: $7.25 for non-tipped employees; $2.13 for tipped employees

Federal: $7.25 for non-tipped employees; $2.13 for tipped employees

Source: U.S. Department of Labor

Did you like this? Share it:
Comments Off

School Board Deliberates Over CleanPower Contract [The Portage County Gazette]

by Sarah McQueen, 4/4/2014 – The Portage County Gazette.

The Stevens Point Area Public School District Board will work to decide if it should sign another contract with CleanPower, a janitorial service, or look for services elsewhere. The current contract expires June 30.CleanPower presented the board with a contract Monday, March 31, but the board declined signing it on the grounds that the contract was incomplete and that more time is needed to consider other options. CleanPower will return at the April 14 meeting with a completed contract to seek the board’s approval.

SEIU Local 1 Wisconsin Coordinator Dave Somerscales addresses the Stevens Point School Board on March 31, 2014.

SEIU Local 1 Wisconsin Coordinator Dave Somerscales addresses the Stevens Point School Board on March 31, 2014.

Board member Jeff Presley said he was not comfortable signing a contract with many blank spaces on it.

Superintendent Atilla Weninger suggested the board sign the contract, contingent on their satisfaction with it at the next meeting. He said after the contract is signed the board has 30 days to terminate it. That option was voted down.

Kim Shirek said she has received more than 20 emails from community members complaining about CleanPower.

“I would like to see us change and go to another company and not do a five-year contract,” Shirek said. “I am hoping the board will look at all the emails we have received and not hire them (CleanPower) for another five years.”

Board member Bob Larson said it was not in the budget to change the program.

“We know we can’t afford to have a contract go away, we went through the RFP process like we were supposed to do and CleanPower came up first based on dollars and points,” said Bob Larson. “What do you want to do? Eliminate CleanPower? We can’t sustain it.”

The district uses a mix of contracted employees from CleanPower and its own custodial positions to clean the schools. The district keeps a mix of 60 percent district custodians and 40 percent contracted from CleanPower. By using contracted employees, the district saves approximately $1 million annually.

At the Dec. 16 board meeting, an anonymous document entitled “Daily Issues with CleanPower at SPASH” was presented to the board. The list included things such as exterior doors left unlocked, interior doors left unlocked, resulting in alarms being set off; missing tools, keys and food; locker rooms not cleaned and disinfected; employee turnover; smoking on campus; and late arrival and early leaving. The letter addressed 17 items in total and the board asked that administration respond to the problems.

Thomas Owens, the director of business services, reported back to the board Monday regarding the list of issues.

“We found no facts to substantiate or support the notion that any such things have occurred on a daily basis,” Owens said

Owens interviewed the custodial staff and addressed each of the issues mentioned on the list. Owens said some of the issues listed were too vague and unsubstantiated to address. He cited many of the issues as having occurred once or twice, but said they were dealt with at the time of the occurrence.

One issue not refuted was the high employee turnover.

“The frequency of turnover of CleanPower staff does vary,” Owens said. “Sometimes several people are replaced and at other time periods not so much.”

Regarding this list Weninger said he needs to make a decision based on facts as best as we can get them from the providers.

“I cannot not make a decision based on rumor and innuendo,” Weninger said

Several members of the public spoke at the March 11 board meeting, stating the board should not sign another contract with CleanPower.

Dave Somerscales, a representative from Service Employees International Union Local 1, a labor union based in Milwaukee, attended the March 11 and 31 meetings to speak against CleanPower.

“CleanPower has many accounts, they are paying poverty wages,” Somerscales said. “That brings down the cleaning standard for everybody when you set the bar so low. We wanted to make sure the school board and the surrounding community understood this is not a good company to do business with. This is about accountability and transparency.”

A representative from CleanPower declined to comment at the meeting but agreed to make a statement afterward.

“CleanPower has been engaged in a successful partnership with the Stevens Point school district for the past 10 years,” said Jana Rusk, vice president of human resources and safety for CleanPower. “This relationship has been consistently successful due to our strong local managers, extensive pre-employment background checks, ongoing training and development and our continued focus on safety.”

 

Did you like this? Share it:
Comments Off

@SEIULocal1