Raising the standard for good working conditions is like a chain reaction. More people will see their work life can be better.

~ Clara Vargas, 32BJ Member, Florida

The City Council Heard Us

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by Shirley Aldebol
32BJ Vice President

Our campaign for Equal Pay for Equal Work intensified on Monday as schools members testified to the City Council about the effects of the pay disparity among our membership.

At the hearing in front of the Council’s Education Committee, Bronx school cleaner Bill Jennings and Brooklyn school cleaner Ronald St. John told the City Council members about the things they’ve sacrificed for themselves and their families because they don’t make prevailing wage. Bill and Ronald are employed by custodian engineers so then don’t get the prevailing wage.

“Because of the lack of the prevailing wage, I have had to put off putting money in a 401K and putting savings aside for emergencies,” Bill said. “I manage paycheck to paycheck. And I’ve needed to take on extra jobs to help make ends meet.”

Brooklyn cleaner Marie Merisier works for Temco and gets paid the prevailing wage. She gave emotional testimony about how this has changed her life.

“I raised 4 kids and sent them to college as a single mom,” Marie said. “It wasn’t easy and some days I had to go without food so my kids could eat. Now that I’m making the prevailing wage, I feel a lot more secure.”

I also testified about the inequality in the system, which leads to two cleaners doing the same work, sometimes in schools just down the block from each other, seeing a 20 percent difference in their paycheck.

It’s not fair and we need equal pay now!

The City Council members on the Education Committee were very receptive to our testimony but there was no quick fix on Monday. But this is a step in the right direction.

Our fight continues on all fronts. We will follow carefully any “restructuring plan” the City may pursue. That plan has to protect what we have and must include prevailing wage as well. We will continue to press the Council on our bill to amend the Living Wage Law to make even more clear that we are all entitled to prevailing wage. And we will continue to pursue our claim with the Comptroller that the Living Wage Law does already require that we are entitled to the prevailing wage. We do not know at this point on which front we will win; but we will fight until we get that win.

We are all committed in this fight and we all need to get involved to win it. We need you to join us at our meetings when we discuss the way forward. We need you to meet with City Council members to tell them about your experiences. And we need you to talk about this with your coworkers and get them involved too.

Mark your calendars: On February 28th we’ll have an important meeting to discuss our plan for winning Equal Pay. I’ll be in touch soon with more information.

Did you see the article about our campaign in the Daily News on Monday?

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