Philadelphia school employees vote to authorize strike

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

BySharifa Jackson WPVI logo
Saturday, August 20, 2022
Philadelphia school employees vote to authorize strike
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Union members say their demands for fair pay and more training has not been met.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- With a little more than a week from school starting in Philadelphia, the school workers union, SEIU 32BJ, has voted to strike.

"Philadelphia School District workers have just voted to strike! Enough is enough! After months of bargaining, the District is meeting the needs of workers for more training and pay that meets what those doing the same jobs in Philly make," said SEIU 32BJ.

The district's maintenance, custodial and transportation employees have voted to authorize a strike after a Saturday afternoon meeting.

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 a hero. Currently in negotiations and no one remembers that," said John Bynum, district leader for Local 32BJ of SEIU. "We are just negotiating for a fair contract. I can't answer for why the district isn't listening."

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

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

The lowest-paid position currently makes $14.31 an hour.

"Our scale is totally down across the board. We're underpaid. In 2012, we gave concessions out of our paycheck when the school district was in financial distress. No one seems to remember that," said Bynum.

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

A Philadelphia School District spokesperson provided this statement:

"We deeply value the work of our staff who are represented by 32BJ SEIU District 1201. We continue to actively participate in conversations and negotiations to secure a new contract as soon as possible, without disruption to in-person learning to begin the 2022-2023 school year. Schools are hubs of our community. Last year, we saw firsthand the joy and excitement of our students, families, and staff as they reconnected in person and began to re-engage in the caring school communities they missed so much. Keeping this momentum going is what's best for our young people. We remain hopeful that we will be able to agree to fair and sustainable terms of a contract that values and supports our employees."