This article was originally published on March 25, 2015.
Dozens of janitors working in Chicago Public Schools and other low-wage workers rallied outside the Board of Education Wednesday, asking the district to increase their hours – and pay them $15 an hour.
Since CPS agreed last year to pay Aramark and SodexoMAGIC $340 million to manage its custodial services, school principals have complained in two separate surveys that their workloads haven’t been lightened, nor are their schools cleaner, as the district promised.
CPS has said that an independent audit of about 385 schools shows that all but 20 of them are meeting the contracted level of cleanliness.
But the janitors, whose contract will expire in early April, told the board that they are stretched too thin and need more bodies in schools to keep them clean.
Ina Davis, a custodian of 19 years, said her workload has increased to 17 classrooms and 23 bathrooms every night at the University of Chicago – Donoghue charter school since Aramark took away a janitor position as part of laying off nearly 300 janitors and pushing about 200 more to part-time status.
“I work 8 hours a day. We need more people over there,” she said. “I’m full-time right now. But I feel like I’m doing triple time with the work that I have.”
The janitors, including Davis, joined low-wage workers, including CPS Safe Passage workers, at a press conference asking for a minimum wage of $15.
That’s where mayoral challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia added his support, saying that better wages lead to more stable families and children better able to learn.
“I stand with them, because it is good for Chicago and for a more promising Chicago for all workers,” Garcia said.
But he would not say how he’d pay for those raises if he’s elected in his April 7 runoff against Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
In a statement, Emanuel’s campaign said that the city requires that any new contracts signed with the city pay workers at least $13 an hour. District contractors and subcontractors also have to pay $13 – but non-profits are excluded, CPS spokesman Bill McCaffrey said. That means Safe Passage workers will still be paid $10 an hour for standing outside of schools during arrival and dismissal times and won’t rise to $13 an hour until 2018.
CPS was not willing to raise wages to $15, but inside the board meeting, Chicago Teachers Union vice president Jesse Sharkey said his members would join CPS in lobbying Springfield for any new revenue sources – except a Chicago casino.
Inside, janitors also pleaded their case.
Maria Navarez said she cleans three hallways and 12 classrooms in four hours at Schubert Elementary School, then travels to Nixon to do another 17 classrooms, 2 hallways, 3 washrooms and the gym.
“That’s all I have to do in 4 hours. To me it’s impossible but I try my best I work very hard. I take no lunch,” she said.