New York, NY – Despite the pouring rain, hundreds of 32BJ members were joined by elected officials and community activists in a rally in City Hall to demand Equal Pay for Equal Work for the 5,000 school cleaners and handypersons who maintain schools healthy and safe for more than one million public school children in New York City.
In June 2013, the New York State Supreme Court ruled that the handypersons and cleaners employed by Temco to clean and maintain New York City Department of Education buildings are entitled to be paid the prevailing wage and benefit rates set by the Comptroller. That court ruling also applies to the employees of ABM and any other cleaning contractor that the NYC Department of Education decides to use. Based on the Court ruling, workers will receive retroactive pay back to 2011.
School cleaners demanded that they all be paid at the prevailing wage for contracted cleaners, and that all school cleaners simply be paid Equal Pay for Equal Work.
“I’ve worked in the same school for 28 years. I know the students, I know the neighborhood. It’s comforting for the parents to see a familiar face in a changing environment,” said Robert Orso, a 32BJ member who works as a school cleaner. “It’s important to have people who know the school, know the neighborhood, and most importantly know the people.”
The union has also filed a complaint with the NYC comptroller’s office under the NYC Living Wage Law, for the remaining school cleaners employed by Custodian Engineers. The complaint alleges that the cleaners and handypersons employed by the Custodian Engineers at New York City Department of Education buildings are entitled to receive wages and benefit supplements equal to the prevailing rates for other building service workers. This Complaint is still pending before the Comptroller’s office.
“Today hundreds of hardworking men and women who clean our public schools were joined by labor advocates, elected officials and community members who stand for equal pay for equal work and understand the meaning of solidarity. Every day, school cleaners keep schools healthy and safe for more than one million school children. They are instrumental to making school a great place to learn and thrive,” said Hector Figueroa, President, 32BJ SEIU.
School cleaners want to keep up with the cost of living.
“All the money I had saved I had to use to pay my bills, and now the bills continue to pile-up said Joseph Mendez, a 32BJ member who works as a school cleaner at PS 40 in Manhattan. “I would like to get my own place, but on the salary I’m making I just can’t afford it, plus I have to help my mom out with the bills.”
With more than 145,000 members, including 70,000 in New York City, 32BJ is the largest property service workers union in the country.