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CPS custodians’ union ratifies new contract with district contractors

SEIU Local 1 President Tom Balanoff | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Following a threat to strike last week, Chicago Public Schools janitors voted Saturday to ratify a new three-year contract with the district’s contractors.

The union, which represents about 1,700 custodians, voted “by an overwhelming margin” to ratify the deal with CPS contractors Aramark and SodexoMAGIC, which provides for yearly raises, protects benefits and “includes language that will help keep schools clean,” according to a statement from the union, SEIU Local 1.

The first year of the new contract calls for an 8.5 percent raise accounting for new hires, and combining wages, benefits and pensions increases, according to SEIU Local 1 spokeswoman Izabela Miltko-Ivkovich. The second year will see a 2.6 percent increase, and the third a 2.8 percent increase.

About 400 custodians showed up to vote Saturday, with “a handful of no votes,” Miltko-Ivkovich said.

“By coming together and threatening to strike, Local 1 custodians held contractors and CPS accountable,” SEIU Local 1 President Tom Balanoff said in the statement. “These historic agreements will help give custodians the resources they need to keep schools clean.”

The union and CPS reached an agreement Thursday — just two days before the planned strike — that called for the hiring of 200 more custodians to do deep cleanings of schools this summer.

CPS said 100 of the custodians will remain in the fall, and that all the hirings will cost $7 million.

Officials also agreed to meet quarterly with the union to discuss school conditions.

RELATED: Chicago Teachers Union: Hiring 100 more school custodians is ‘not enough’

The Sun-Times has documented filthy conditions in schools where the custodians are managed by Aramark, a private contractor for CPS. Of 125 schools examined in “blitz” cleanliness inspections, 91 failed.

Janitors have said they couldn’t keep up with cleaning schools because Aramark and SodexoMAGIC cut too many jobs since taking over in 2014. They had asked for 500 more janitors to clean the schools.

SEIU Local 1 is among the labor unions that are part of the investor group that owns the Chicago Sun-Times.