Julie Blust, a representative of Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ, and on behalf of The Ellwood City School District Workers Bargaining Committee, released a response to the Ellwood City School District outsourcing negotiations over the weekend.
“We found the School District’s account of our contract negotiations to be worryingly inaccurate so we feel that it is important to set the record straight,” Blust begins in her statement which reads as follows.
For anyone who has not been following this issue closely, last year the School District made the alarming announcement that they would like to outsource school district jobs, including custodial and food service. Since that time, we have been trying to work with the District to save our jobs while saving the community money.
The School District has suggested that we are not bargaining in good faith. This could not be further from the truth. We have met with the District and made money-saving proposals which they have not considered. In fact, the District has refused to meet with us since our last meeting in July. Since that time we have requested more meeting times and information but our requests have been ignored.
It’s hard to bargain in good faith when you’re not even coming to the table.
It is worth noting that we have gone out of our way to help save the District money including switching health care plans five years ago which resulted in saving the District tens of thousands of dollars. If the District ever decides to come back to the table, we are prepared to work with them, once again, to figure out a solution that saves the taxpayers money and keeps our jobs.
There is nothing “good faith” about destroying some of the last good jobs that remain in the community. It is dishonest to suggest that our modest salaries are costing students “Chromebooks” any more than employing qualified teachers would. Sure, the District could save money by replacing its entire staff with some form of free or cheap labor. But we assume that the concern over the safety and welfare of children is the biggest consideration. But perhaps, that assumption is no longer true.
The District’s willingness to scapegoat us and threaten our replacement with god-knows-who gives us concern that saving a few bucks may trump quality and service for our children. Nearly all of us live in Ellwood City and have children and grandchildren in the schools. Our combined services to the school district equals hundreds of years. Most of the children we feed or clean up after are like family. We know their likes and dislikes, their preferences and worries.
We have all had multiple background checks and clearances, something that an outsourced company—looking to cash in on the School District—may not care as much about.
Most people in our community know that outsourcing is not the answer to budget problems. It doesn’t really save taxpayers’ dollars in the long term and it takes away the personal connection and trust we’ve built in our school community.
“We are more than just lunch ladies and custodians. We are friends, neighbors and loyal public servants of the School District. If the school board wants to do something to really help, show us the respect and dignity we deserve and take the idea of outsourcing off the table,” Blust concludes.
32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country, representing more than 163,000 office cleaners, security officers, doormen, porters, maintenance workers, bus drivers and aides, window cleaners, school cleaners and food service workers in ten states and Washington, DC. 32BJ members work in residential buildings, commercial offices, airports, university and college campuses, public schools, theaters, museums arenas and stadiums. Our members come from 64 different countries and speak 28 different languages, and are united in a single fight for fairness and decency.