Philadelphia – Members of 32BJ SEIU reached a tentative four-year agreement with the School District of Philadelphia Thursday night months before the current contract’s expiration. The deal – subject to ratification – includes an end to member concessions, fair wage increases, and provides for full-time bus routes. The more than 2,000 blue collar employees are bus drivers, bus attendants, maintenance workers, cleaners, and building engineers.
“Our hard-working members sacrificed over the past four years to help the students and the District. We are glad the District acknowledges our efforts. This agreement allows these employees to continue supporting their families and their communities,” said Ernie Bennett, Leader District 1201 32BJ SEIU.
Contract negotiations opened in April between 32BJ SEIU and The School District of Philadelphia. The employees work at nearly 300 schools across the city. During difficult negotiations four years ago, the school district employees agreed to concessions worth $100 million to help the District’s budget shortfall.
Last month, long-time mechanic Chris Trakimas died from injuries suffered when a boiler exploded at F.S. Edmonds Elementary School in January. He remained in a coma for four months. Prior to budget cuts, repairs to a boiler would be completed by two employees to ensure safety. After years of budget cuts, Trakimas was tasked with doing the risky job alone.
Following the boiler accident, the union descended on the School District Building and demanded action to ensure the safety of students and workers. The City’s Managing Director’s office, Philadelphia Gas Works, the School District and 32BJ SEIU collaborated on the test and inspection of 542 boilers located in 268 school buildings. The test and inspections generated 413 repair work orders which are currently completed or underway.
“We have done our part over the years to support our children’s education from concessions to trips to Harrisburg to demand for more education funding. This tentative agreement is a step in the right direction and shows that our members and the District can work together effectively to reach a fair contract,” said Gabe Morgan, Vice President, 32BJ SEIU.
The starting hourly wages for the employees on average range from $12 for a cleaner to $20 to a trades mechanic.
The current contract between 32BJ and the School District of Philadelphia expires midnight August 31, 2016. Details of the new agreement will be available following the member ratification vote this weekend.
With 155,000 members in eleven states and Washington, D.C., including 22,000 in Pennsylvania, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.