by Héctor Figueroa
President, 32BJ SEIU
I am writing you today with hope, dedication and commitment to winning for New York City school cleaners who do such vital and important work. We’ve won a new contract, but there’s more to do. We continue to fight for Equal Pay for ALL school workers. We are working hard on three fronts: passing legislation through the City Council, pursuing a complaint under the living wage ordinance at the Controller’s office and working with the Mayor to find ways for the City to pay prevailing wage to all school cleaners, handypersons and fire safety staff. And to reach our goal through any of these means we must come together, be united and strong and be more organized than ever. It all starts with understanding the new contract terms and how it helps us to campaign for Equal Pay for Equal Work.
On November 19 we reached a nine-year contract settlement for school cleaners and handypersons with the City and custodian engineers of Local 891. The agreement, which covers the 4,200 32BJ school members like you employed by custodian engineers, includes a total of 18% in raises over the contract term. Under the new deal, members will receive an immediate 8.5% raise and a $1,000 bonus (prorated for part-timers).
The agreement covers October 22, 2007 through October 21, 2016 and conforms to the established pattern that was fully accounted for in the City’s adopted budget and labor reserve. This contract helps hundreds of families keep up with the city’s rising costs of rent, food and other basic necessities. We understand that the City pattern that this contract follows is very complicated and difficult to fully understand and have mailed you a number of materials to help clarify the terms of the contract.
THE FIGHT FOR PREVAILING WAGE
While we are glad to finally have a contract settled, let me be clear: we won this contract but our fight is not over. We were able to win this agreement because of all the members who took action, but this is our first victory and we will keep fighting until all New York City school cleaners are earning Equal Pay for Equal Work and making the prevailing wage. Winning Equal Pay for Equal Work is our union’s top priority with City Hall.
The city has committed to getting 32BJ school members employed by custodian engineers Equal Pay for Equal Work and to pay all school workers prevailing wage. And we will hold them accountable to their word. But it will take a lot more work, a lot more campaigning and engaging the Mayor, the City Council and the City Controller to make it happen. We need to be united, well-organized and we must win political and public support.
It is our position that all school cleaners and handypersons are required under the City’s living wage ordinance to be paid prevailing wage. However, to expedite getting Equal Pay for Equal Work we have introduced and lobbied for legislation (Intro 386 of the City Council) that will clarify once and for all that school cleaners and handypersons employed by custodian engineers are to be paid the prevailing wage rate as mandated by the Living Wage Law just as those employed by cleaning contractors do. So far, 37 council members have committed to vote YES to the passage of this bill once it’s brought to the council floor. The City Council has scheduled hearings for February 2, 2015. I urge you to come together with your brothers and sisters in City Hall on that date, and spread the word.
Please note that Local 891 opposes our legislation. It is difficult to understand their position since paying prevailing wage to school workers doesn’t undermine the pay or benefits of custodian engineers. But regardless of where the custodian engineers stand we have to continue to work to win what we deserve.
Your resilience and perseverance is inspiring. If we want to be treated equally we have to fight for it. Let’s remain united and strong to get what we deserve – Equal Pay for Equal Work. Please sign on to the campaign now. In the meantime study the terms of your new contract and reach out to your union field representative if you have questions.
When we fight we win!