Complaining that they are overworked, under-equipped and fed up, dozens of school custodians rallied in front of Chicago school district headquarters for better working conditions.
The Chicago Sun-Times reports that the 150 or so protesters, who work for companies hired contracted to keep facilities clean, say the district and the contractors are not providing them with the resources they need to keep schools clean.
Many employees contend that they buy cleaning products out of their own pockets. Maxine Gladney, a custodian at Powell Elementary, estimates she has spent hundreds of dollars over the span of her 16-year career.
“The cleaner I get is 98 percent water and 2 percent solution,” Gladney says. “I can’t clean 15 rooms, a library, six bathrooms and three flights of stairs with water.”
Custodians are “the invisible workers” whose job often is overlooked, says Tom Balanoff, president of Local 1 of the Service Employees International Union, which represents them.
“We need the proper equipment,” Balanoff says. “We need the right mops and brooms and cleaning fluids. We also need proper staffing. We’re calling on CPS to create better accountability, to make sure that the contractors are providing the service that the CPS contracted for.”
Negotiations are underway for the custodians, whose contract expires next month, the union says. It represents about 2,000 custodians who work for contractors that include Aramark, RJB, and Gerelex.
Karen Cutler, a spokesperson for Aramark, says Aramark has not heard about the supply concerns raised by the custodians.
“We are confident that the 400+ CPS schools managed by Aramark have sufficient cleaning supplies and equipment,” she says.