Philadelphia, PA – The Philadelphia School Reform Commission (SRC) and 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union, which represents the School District’s maintenance, cleaning, and transportation employees, agreed on a new contract which saves jobs and provides financial relief to the School District.
Key provisions of the contract, which extends through August 31, 2016 include:
- Contributions of between $5 and $45 per week to the School District from 32BJ SEIU’s blue collar members, most of whom earn less than $40,000 per year. Contribution levels are dependent on members’ income levels.
- Agreement to forego planned wage increases in the future and freeze wages for the life of the contract.
- These and other contract changes will be worth in excess of $100 million to the School District over the life of the contract.
- An agreement to use national benchmarks to set standards for school cleanliness and empower principals to partner with building engineers to make decisions about the state of their buildings.
Representatives from the School District and from 32BJ SEIU began active negotiations in January. Talks continued through the spring, as the School District released a budget and proposed a five year plan that required savings from operations and new revenue from both the state and city.
The two parties reached a tentative agreement in mid-July, after which 32BJ SEIU conducted a vote amongst its members to ratify the agreement. The agreement was ratified as of today, and brought to the SRC for formal approval at a public meeting this evening.
“This was a difficult process but we came together because we are committed to our kids and our schools. The members of 32BJ SEIU recognize the dire crisis of public education, locally and nationally, and are stepping up to the plate to make real, difficult contributions for the good of Philadelphia’s public school students,” said SRC Chairman Pedro Ramos. “We appreciate their partnership, and especially look forward to working with them to find new, more effective ways to improve the climate in our schools with new cleaning standards and practices.”
“Our goal is to create the best possible learning environment for Philadelphia’s children.” said Gabe Morgan, 32BJ SEIU State Director. “By working together we hope to transform the system.”
“It was a difficult process, but we are committed to work together over the next four years to support the fight for public education and to ensure the safety of our children,” said George Ricchezza, District 1201 Leader for 32BJ SEIU. “We are proud to be a part of the system and we want to work with the District to try to close the budget shortfall.”
“We work for the public schools — for our kids; and we worked together with the District to find a solution,” said Ernie Bennett who has worked as an engineer at Tanner Duckery School in North Philadelphia for 26 years. “Hanging by a thread for an entire year has been rough. But I’m grateful for the chance to continue my service helping the children and to be able to feed my family.” Bennett, who has two grandchildren in the schools and a daughter who teaches and coaches at a Philadelphia high school, often mentors kids after work.
The agreement will preserve the jobs of the vast majority of the nearly 2,700 members of the bargaining unit representing the School District’s blue collar workers. The contract does provide for layoffs as the District proceeds with plans to close underutilized school buildings over the course of the coming year and the transportation department will reduce its workforce by 50 workers in 2014 and 25 more in 2015.
32BJ represents more than 10,000 workers employed in K-12 school districts; including in Philadelphia; New York City; and other districts throughout New York; New Jersey and Pennsylvania. With more than 120,000 members; including 10,000 in the Philadelphia area; 32BJ is the largest property services union in the country.
Implementation of the new agreement will begin immediately.