This story originally appeared on WHYY
Workers from the School District of Philadelphia will hit the picket line one week before the school year begins.
The district’s maintenance, custodial, and transportation employees voted on Saturday to authorize a strike, as contract negotiations with the district have stalled.
The workers, represented by the Services Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 32BJ, rallied at Benjamin Franklin High School on Broad Street in North Philadelphia prior to the vote.
The current contract for the workers expires on August 31. Union members say their demands for fair pay and more training have not been met.
“We worked through COVID, everyone considered us a hero. Currently in negotiations and no one remembers that,” John Bynum, district leader for Local 32BJ of SEIU, said in an interview with 6abc last week. “We are just negotiating for a fair contract. I can’t answer for why the district isn’t listening.”
There are an estimated 2,000 Philadelphia school district workers represented under this contract. The lowest paid employees make $14.31 an hour.
In a statement to 6abc last week, a Philadelphia School District spokesperson said:
“We deeply value the work of our staff who are represented by 32BJ SEIU District 1201. We continue to actively participate in conversations and negotiations to secure a new contract as soon as possible, without disruption to in-person learning to begin the 2022-2023 school year. Schools are hubs of our community. Last year, we saw firsthand the joy and excitement of our students, families, and staff as they reconnected in person and began to re-engage in the caring school communities they missed so much. Keeping this momentum going is what’s best for our young people. We remain hopeful that we will be able to agree to fair and sustainable terms of a contract that values and supports our employees.”
The first day for Philadelphia students is Monday, August 29.