Hundreds of 32BJ members who work as cleaners and handypersons in New York public schools gathered this week on the steps of City Hall to call on the City Council to pass legislation that would allow all these workers to be paid the prevailing wage rate just like other contracted cleaners and handypersons who work in New York City schools.
Currently, about one out of 8 cleaners and handypersons in city schools are paid the prevailing wage, while the rest earn about $5 less an hour, even though they all do the same work.
“It’s not fair that many of our brothers and sisters working in public schools have to make some tough choices when it comes to providing what their families need,” said Haydee Reynald, a 32BJ member who has worked as a cleaner at Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan for 17 years. “We all work very hard to keep schools running, clean and safe, and that deserves having all of us treated the same and paid the same.”
This is because there is not yet a clear ruling on whether the Living Wage law covers cleaners and handypersons who work for custodial engineers or just cleaners and handypersons who work for other contractors.
Intro Bill 386, introduced by Councilmember Daneek Miller (District 27, Queens) last year, would close this loophole and ensure that all cleaners and handypersons in New York City public schools are treated equally and fairly.
Council member Andy King (District 12, Bronx) spoke at the rally in support of making sure all these workers are treated equally and fairly.
“We must commit via legislation that SEIU Local 32BJ’s members who perform cleaning and handy person work in the public schools receive the same prevailing wages as any other contracted to do this work in the City of New York,” said Council member King, Co-Chair of the Black, Latino & Asian Caucus.
Council members Mathieu Eugene (District 40, Brooklyn) and Ben Kallos (District 5, Manhattan) likewise expressed support for this effort.
“Clean schools are essential for our children’s health and safety. Our hard-working cleaners have one of the most demanding jobs in the city and they deserve appropriate pay,” said Council member Eugene, chair of the Committee on Youth Services, spoke in support of making sure all these workers are treated equally and fairly. “We must ensure that all our workers are paid the same rate for the same job. There must be equal pay for equal work.”
“Every day and every night, the school cleaning staff ensures a safe environment for our children,” said Council member Kallos. “I am proud to stand with school cleaners to demand justice.”
32BJ members and leadership urged the City Council to pass the legislation.
“Having 37 City Council members co-sponsoring this bill tells us that the will exists in the City Council to do the right thing for these workers and provide them with equal pay for equal work,” said Shirley Aldebol, 32BJ’s vice-president in charge of school, security and commercial divisions in New York. “We at 32BJ strongly urge them to bring this bill to the floor for a vote. We need to raise the floor for these workers to make things better for all of them.”
With more than 145,000 members including 70,000 in New York City, 32BJ is the largest property service workers union in the country.