Public school custodians in North Kingstown didn’t mourn when the school committee outsourced their jobs last year. They organized.
The 27 school janitors voted today to negotiate their pay and benefits collectively as a bargaining unit with the NEARI.
“Privatizing doesn’t mean an end to union rights,” said Pat Crowley, of the NEARI. “Any municipality that thinks privatization is a way to get away from unions is wrong.”
He said the re-unionized custodians will elect a negotiating committee in time to work out a new contract before school starts again in September.
“This is the first time a private, for profit employer has had unionized workers in a school,” Crowley added. “That means they now have a right to strike. Not that we are looking forward to that but it’s a right they didn’t have as public sector employees. It’s definitely a possibility.”
The NK School Committee outsourced the custodian’s jobs to the private sector in August in hopes of saving money. The custodians worked this school year without a contract.
“They want some justice for the injustice that was done to them last year,” Crowley said, though he added t is too early to know if they will want to recoup all the wages and benefits they lost when the school committee outsourced their jobs.