School District 204 custodial workers looking for pay hike

About 50 custodial workers asked the Indian Prairie School District 204 Board Monday night for help getting a pay increase.

While the workers are satisfied with their benefits, shop steward Steven Mays said that pay rates are another matter.

“Regarding wages, unfortunately, things have hit a wall,” Mays told the Board of Education.

But taking their case to the Board of Trustees is unlikely to win workers anything but private sympathy from some board members, since their actual employer is Aramark, a Pennsylvania-based company with whom the district contracts for custodial, grounds and maintenance services.

“They are definitely part of our district,” School Board President Lori Price said of the workers. However, district officials have no input into the negotiations between the employees and Aramark, and would offer no comment on them.

Citing ongoing negotiations, an Aramark representative also declined any comment.

“We cannot comment on our ongoing negotiations, but I can assure you that we continue to bargain in good faith,” Aramark spokesperson Karen Cutler replied by email.

Mays, a 16-year district employee and member of Service Employees International Union Local 1, said that the workers are in the last year of their contract and hadn’t had a cost of living raise since 2003.

Mays said that he understood business realities, noting that “you can’t be in business without making a profit,” but he also said that the district had saved about $4 million in recent years on an energy-reduction program.

“Don’t treat us like we’re second class citizens,” he said.

Other workers echoed his sentiments.

“Everybody is making $10 per hour and living paycheck to paycheck,” Marco Magana said.

Mays said that overall, the vast majority of workers start out at $9.50 per hour and never moved significantly higher than $10 per hour.

While the group’s contract doesn’t expire until July 31, 2015, the union’s arrangement with Aramark provided an option to renegotiate pay for the final year.

Mays said the workers planned no action now. However, when the contract expires, he couldn’t promise there wouldn’t be a strike.

“That’s always an option,” Mays said. “But we’re not even looking at that. We just want to get back to the table.”

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