May 10, 2016
By Silver Krieger
New York, NY – After more than a 15 year battle for “equal pay for equal work,” some 1,000 members of International Union Of Operating Engineers Local 94 who work in engine rooms of New York City schools, have won their fight. Under a new contract approved overwhelmingly Thursday, Local 94 members will receive the equivalent of the prevailing wages paid to outside contract employees.
Under this historic agreement, members of Local 94 and 32BJ working in the school system will be employed by a new non-profit entity, and will no longer be considered “indirect employees” of school custodians.
Nearly 500 members of the local filled the historic Cooper Union Great Hall Wednesday night as Local 94 President Kuba Brown explained the details of the new agreement. “This is an historic room where Abraham Lincoln spoke about freeing the slaves. Tonight, I am here to bring you an historic, life changing agreement,” said Brown.
The new deal brings an end to a system that has existed for nearly 150 years. The job titles demonstrate just how outdated the system had become. Among the titles represented by Local 94 include Engineer, High Pressure Engineer, “Fireman, Fireman Helper, Fireman Cleaner and Coal Passer.
Now, although the workers still carry 19th century job titles, they will now be earning solid middle-class 21st century wages and benefits. The contract also includes a defined pension plan, a separate annuity plan and medical coverage.
“Do you know why we fought for 15 years?” Brown asked rhetorically. “You took care of the city’s most prized possessions – their children. And you weren’t respected.”
In addition to Local 94, new agreements have been reached with the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 891, and 32BJ SEIU. Currently, each Custodial Engineer has the authority to administer a budget for his school, including staff and supplies. After the contract comes into force, all schools will be managed by a new non-profit set up by the DOE which will handle staffing. Now, however, all custodial workers in public schools will make the prevailing wage, which was not the case previously raising pay up to the level of private sector workers doing the same jobs.
The new contract will go into effect September 1st, once the new non-profit entity has been established.
All positions will have substantial pay raises. According to the CHIEF- LEADER, Cleaners who earn a base hourly pay of $21.65 under the current contract, would earn the prevailing wage, which is $24.62 as of July 1; Handymen who earned $24.28 an hour would earn $26.95. Firemen now earn a base pay of $24.70 hourly and Stationary Engineers earn $27.92.
A big plus in the new contract is a no-layoff guarantee for “any full time Local 94 members due to the implementation of the agreement in any school currently run by a custodian.” The contract stipulates twelve months of employment for all full-time custodial workers.
“This has been a long, difficult process. I am pleased that we have finally been able to right a long-standing wrong,” said Brown. “Beyond the economic justice for our members, this agreement will lead to more efficient and sustainable school buildings.”