Current Rockford Public School District janitors are now a union. It's a move to improve current working conditions.
New custodians at Rockford Public Schools are fighting for the same issues that pushed out the workers they replaced. Larry Pople says, “Give us benefits. All we're asking for is better wages."
Custodian Jessie Brown agrees stating that, "A lot of us need health insurance, and a lot of us have kids that need to go to the doctor."
The Rockford Public School district saved about $3 million by contracting with the company that employs these custodians, GCA. The district's savings are costing the new custodians. SEIU Organizer Lety Salcedo tells 23 News, "Many workers who were directly employed made $12 to $14 per hour. GCA offered $8, $8.25."
The custodians hope forming the SEIU Local One union will give them the leverage they need. Many say that the schools are clean which means they should get paid more. Not everyone agrees. There have been numerous complaints that the new janitors are making a mess.
The former union in the district was Rockford Building Maintenance Association. RBMA President Kelly Hribal says, "We have several board members asking questions. Things are not going well for GCA." Hribal stated that, last year's custodians believe these problems are creating an opportunity. Hribal says, "Our focus at RBMA is we want our people back and we want GCA gone." The custodians working for GCA are optimistic that won't happen.
The new union will make a case to their employer next week. Then the custodians in Rockford Public Schools will once again be in a contract dispute. Leaders of the SEIU union hope to have a new contract for the custodians within a few months.