NEW YORK—Hundreds of school janitors from across New York city rallied to protest for a wage increase, demanding equal pay for equal work on Broadway, near City Hall Park, on Wednesday.
There are 5,000 school cleaners across the city. They get paid less than those working in commercial buildings.
“We are protesting because this is unfair. It’s unfair that you have two people doing the same work in different buildings, in different schools, and earning 30 percent less,” said Shirley Aldebol, vice president of 32BJ union.
The protesters wore yellow 32BJ raincoats on the rainy day. They had already lodged a complaint with the city comptroller.
Jamal Johnson was one of them. “My job is to provide a clean environment for the kids. I’m a hard worker. I’ve been doing that for the last eleven years, if I must be exact. Working that long without an increase since 2007 is pretty tough when you have a family,” said Johnson.
According to Aldebol, in the last ten years there has been a substantial cut in the facility budgets to schools and this has increased the work load on school cleaners.
“They cut people down from full-time to part-time, because they cut supplies; they have cut hours, because they have cut actual bodies over the last ten years. That has caused these workers to work harder than they have done before,” said Aldebol.
The issue of low wages is aggravated as many of the workers have families. Many are single parents. For Johnson, low wages do not allow him to save enough money to support his son’s college education.
A wage increase for him would mean a better future for his son. “It’ll help provide him more security,” Johnson said.
Venus Upadhayaya is a special correspondent in New York.