Risking it all, essential workers at Manhattan public schools still come in to sanitize and maintain the grounds during the Covid-19 pandemic. 6,400 clean and maintain schools, resource centers and meal distribution sites even though New York City schools and businesses have shut their doors. Workers don’t just want to be thanked and recognized for their commitment, but demand that funding continue so they can keep their wages and job security.
“I love my job— I’ve been on the job for over 20 years,” Donna Marie Perez, a handyperson said. “Even before the coronavirus, the health and well-being of the students and teachers was a top priority. Now our jobs are even more important, and the pressure is on, and the risk is high. But now we could face budget cuts in a time when we’re relied on the most. We can be fully thanked by getting the wages and job security we deserve in return for the essential work that we do.”
On Friday, a caravan including Council Members Ben Kallos, Mark Levine and the union representing the workers, 32BJ SEIU, passed through six locations to show support for the cleaners and handypersons whose funding could change in the fiscal year 2021 budget.
“Our communities rely on the essential work of 32BJ members to sanitize and maintain the schools,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “32BJ members come to work every day despite the risks to take care of these schools and resource centers that the entire community depends on. We need to take care of them properly by ensuring that the NYCSSS is fully funded, so workers and their families can make it through this crisis.”
“Ensuring that NYC’s public school buildings are clean and safe must be a top priority in budget discussions,” Council Member Mark Levine said. “These essential resource centers could not operate without cleaning and maintenance staff – 32BJ members— keeping the grounds safe. We are out here supporting the wages that the staff deserves and needs, and that means funding the NYCSSS fully to support the workers.”
Last week, 21 city council members signed onto an open letter urging that the NYCSSS obtain full funding.
“When there’s a positive Covid-19 case in the schools, 32BJ members are sent inside to sanitize and take care of the infected area,” SEIU 32BJ Vice President Shirley Aldebol said. “The work is not simple— the expectations are high, and 32BJ members are delivering, day in, day out. We must make this job worth it by fully funding the NYCSSS. Right now, the budget does not reflect the raise they’re legally owed. An investment in NYCSS is not just an investment in the hardworking staff, but an investment in the kids, parents and staff who rely on the public school facilities.”
The group caravanned at six locations—M480 and M645 of the Upper East Side, M125 of Morningside Heights and M465 and M143 of Inwood—following similar events in Queens and Brooklyn and “Heart of Our Buildings” events at residential and commercial buildings throughout New York.
This is the third caravan event and the group will continue at more locations next week in the Bronx.
With more than 175,000 members in 11 states and Washington, D.C., 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.