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CPS custodians, lunchroom staff, security guards want their say on the longer school day

Unions representing Chicago Public School employees who are not teachers said Thursday they need to be part of the discussion about a longer school day. 

The coalition of five unions represents security guards, special education aides, custodians, building engineers and lunchroom workers.

“For all the Board’s statements, they haven’t addressed anything from the other 11,000 workers that are represented by this group,” said Henry Tamarin, president of UNITE HERE Local 1, which represents lunchroom staff.

The school district has been pursuing a vigorous campaign to get teachers at elementary schools to agree to add 90 minutes to their school day. The support staff unions, which held a press conference in front of CPS headquarters, also accused the district of waging “a fierce attack in the media on teachers” over that longer day.

CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll pointed out that one of the labor leaders—Christine Boardman, president of SEIU Local 73— is actually on the district’s committee to discuss implementation of the longer school day. The district said it’s been trying to meet with the Chicago Teachers Union on the issue and still hopes to do that. Carroll said at schools that have already instituted the longer day, support staff are not necessarily working longer hours; when they are, they're being paid.

Union leaders said they want the longer day discussed at the bargaining table, not in the media. They say that for all the talk about a longer school day, unions have seen no proposals for it at the negotiating table.

CPS support staff saw their raises canceled this summer along with teachers’ raises, after the Board of Education declared it could not afford to pay 4 percent raises. The board said at the time that a majority of teachers would still see higher paychecks because of so-called “step” and “lane” increases, which pay teachers for more experience and better credentials.

But workers like Linda Green said they got nothing. Green has been working 22 years in CPS lunchrooms and makes $13.32 an hour as an assistant manager.  “We work hard and we feel like we should be compensated for it,” said Green. 

Chicago Public Schools’ contracts with all its employees—support staff and teachers— expire in June.

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