The SEIU filed a grievance against the private sector custodial business hoping to ink a deal with the North Kingstown School Committee. The union says the company violated their New England-wide contract when it failed to apprise them of the deal it entered with the school district.
According to the grievance, GSA, the outsource company, had a previous contract with the SEIU that stipulated the company is “required to notify SEIU Local 615 ‘as soon as (your company) receives notice that it has been awarded a new job location.'”
“Failure to do this can result in a misapplication of contract standards which may subject your company to monetary damages and penalties,” read the grievance.
While a deal has yet to be signed between North Kingstown and GSA, the company is already doing business in the local schools.
Rachel Miller, of the SEIU 615, said the contract requires GSA to negotiate a contract with the custodians who will have the option of organizing under the SEIU. The NK school custodians are currently represented by the NEA.
“The starting point for negotiations would be no cuts,” she said. “It is also my understanding that they misled- at least by omission- the North Kingstown school committee, never mentioning that they are parties to the agreement with Local 615.”
A provision in the contract, she said, stipulates that working conditions and wages cannot be reduced.
In other words, the company might not be able to negotiate any better deal with the custodians than did the School Committee. In fact, the new union might have more negotiating power because it would have greater leeway to strike given that it might not be bound by the same state labor laws the current union is.
Meanwhile, Rhode Island custodians are holding a 24-hour strike at TF Green Airport in solidarity with Houston area janitors who are holding out in hopes of winning a modest pay increase.
“Just like here in Rhode Island, Houston janitors clean the offices of some of the richest corporations in the world yet they struggle to make ends meet,” according to a press release about the strike. “Despite record profits and inflated CEO pay, janitors who clean Houston’s office buildings are paid just $9,000 a year. When janitors refused to accept this offer, they were met with harassment and intimidation by their employers.”
North Kingstown school custodians are standing in solidarity with the strikers at the airport and will a representative will be speaking with the media there at 11 am.