Two days before most of the school janitors’ union planned a strike vote, the union says Chicago Public Schools officials agreed Thursday to hire 200 more custodians to tackle dirty schools.
Union leaders reached a new three-year contract with CPS that includes provisions to hire the janitors this summer to do deep cleanings of schools, according to the union, SEIU Local 1.
CPS said 100 of them 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.
The Chicago 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 can’t keep up with cleaning schools because Aramark and another company that oversees additional facilities work, SodexoMAGIC, cut too many of them since taking over in 2014. They had asked for 500 more janitors to clean the schools.
Two of them also accused their supervisors of cheating on the independent inspections CPS paid for to monitor the cleaning.
CPS has since made changes to that inspection process and stepped into the recent negotiations between SEIU Local 1 and Aramark and SodexoMagic. Officials couldn’t immediately say how much they spend annually on cleaning the schools. Records show they paid Aramark $61.3 million and SodexoMagic $28.5 million during the 2016-17 school year for services that include cleaning.
Members of the union representing the 1,700 privately employed janitors who clean the city’s public schools will meet Saturday to discuss the terms of the contract. An SEIU spokeswoman declined to reveal financial details of the tentative agreement. CPS directly employs up to 825 additional janitors.
CPS CEO Janice Jackson told principals Thursday that the rest of the city’s schools will be inspected before the end of the year so it’s clear where to best deploy the additional 200 summer custodians.
SEIU Local 1 is among the labor unions that are part of the investor group that owns the Chicago Sun-Times.