Philadelphia school employees vote to authorize strike as new year nears

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) — A little over a week before school starts in Philadelphia, there are concerns that some workers in the school district will picket lines.

With contract negotiations stalled, the district’s maintenance, janitorial and transportation workers will vote to authorize a strike.

Union members say their demands for fair pay and more training have not been met.

The current contract expires on August 31.

“We worked through COVID, everyone considered us heroes. Currently in negotiations and nobody remembers it,” said John Bynum, SEIU’s Local 32BJ district leader. “We are only negotiating a fair contract. I can’t answer why the district isn’t listening.”

According to Bynum, an estimated 2,200 workers are represented by the union and under this contract.

The jobs range from bus drivers, mechanics, cleaners, handymen and attendants.

The lowest paying position is currently making $14.31 per hour.

“Our scale is completely down across the board, we are underpaid. In 2012, we made concessions from our paycheck when the school district was in financial distress. Nobody seems to remember it,” Bynum said.

In a press release, union officials said negotiations for new contracts have stalled over fair pay and standardized training programs workers need to do their jobs safely and to keep students, teachers and staff safe.

A spokesman for the Philadelphia School District made this statement:

“We greatly value the work of our employees represented by 32BJ SEIU District 1201. We continue to actively engage in talks and negotiations to finalize a new contract as soon as possible without interrupting in-person learning to begin the 2022-2023 school year. Schools are the hub of our community. Last year we saw firsthand the joy and excitement of our students, families and staff as they reunited in person and began to get back involved in the caring school communities they missed so much. This dynamic is what is best for our young ones People. We continue to hope that we can agree on fair and sustainable contractual terms that our employees value and support.”

The strike vote will take place at Benjamin Franklin High School on Broad Street. & Green Street, Saturday at 1:30 p.m

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