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School Janitors: Lack of Sick Leave Spreads Flu

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School Janitors: Lack of Sick Leave Spreads Flu


Some Chicago schools janitors are gathering at a North Side elementary Tuesday morning with a warning for parents. The janitors lack paid sick days and say that leaves students more vulnerable to germs, including the H1N1 virus.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says seasonal flu kills 50 to 100 children a year in the United States. The agency says swine flu has killed at least 36 children in the country. The advice for sick students and school workers is to stay home 24 hours after the last symptoms of fever.

That’ll be tough for 1,500 janitors who clean about 600 public schools in Chicago. They haven’t had paid sick leave since the district privatized their services in 1996.

Ed Washington says this leaves students vulnerable. He’s a janitor at Fermi, a South Side elementary school.

WASHINGTON: We’re cleaning the things they’re touching on a regular basis. How can it really be clean and we’re sick ourselves?

Local 1 of the Service Employees International Union represents the janitors. Union members are providing hand-sanitizer Tuesday morning in front of Walt Disney Elementary.

Schools CEO Ron Huberman this summer said the district might require the cleaning companies to start providing sick leave when their contracts expire next year.

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