Mayoral candidate Jesus "Chuy" Garcia and the Chicago Teachers Union are pushing for a $15 per hour minimum wage.
Garcia, members of the CTU, and activists with the national movement “Fight for 15” rallied outside the Chicago Board of Education Wednesday. They want all companies who do business with Chicago Public Schools to agree to a wage increase.
“Parents who cannot get regular hours at their job, who cannot make a living wage, have a difficult time providing their children, who are our students, with the kind of environment necessary for real learning,” said CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey.
All CTU-represented employees and most others at CPS are already above the minimum wage, but Sharkey said subcontracted employees, like Safe Passage workers and recess monitors, are not.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel has already promised to increase the minimum wage to $13 an hour by 2018. The wage hike applies to all companies who do business with the city and its sister agencies, including CPS.
Garcia said he’d find the money for a wage hike by closing tax loopholes for wealthy corporations and rerouting money given to “cronies of the mayor.”
“If there’s enough money to make them happy, there ought to be enough money to pay for frontline workers within Chicago Public Schools,” Garcia said.
School janitors also rallied outside the Board Wednesday to argue against the layoffs that took place after CPS outsourced custodial management to Aramark and SodexoMAGIC.
“Since Aramark has taken over, I currently have to clean 72,000 square feet of hallway,” said Ina Davis, a janitor at University of Chicago - Donoghue Charter School. “I have 17 classrooms, 23 bathrooms and I’m the only janitor that has to clean this at night. I’m just asking for CPS to help us.”
Last week, principals asked CPS to end the contracts with Aramark and SodexoMAGIC, saying the schools were still dirty. District officials say after hiccups early in the year, a recent audit of school cleanliness showed most schools are cleaner.
Tom Balanoff, president of the Service Employees International United - Local 1, said even though Aramark compromised by not following through with about half of the planned layoffs, the company still made more than 200 janitors part-time, which is a problem.
“There’s just not enough hours in the day for the janitors to do all the work,” Balanoff said.
Becky Vevea is an education reporter for WBEZ. Follow her @WBEZeducation.