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CTU, Garcia, Call For $15 An Hour Minimum Wage For CPS Workers

By aaroncynic in News on Mar 25, 2015 9:35PM

The Chicago Teacher’s Union today joined the chorus of groups and organizations demanding a $15 an hour minimum wage for Chicago workers. Teachers and other affiliated workers demonstrated outside Chicago Public Schools headquarters this morning ahead of a board meeting, where they called for a $15 an hour wage for all CPS employees, including subcontracted workers. Their call was backed by janitors represented by SEIU Local 1 and the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago, which has led the fight for higher wages for fast food workers.

“I’m fighting for $15 because what I earn right now isn’t enough to live on with the low wages and nonexistent benefits we get,” said Jonathan Nelson, a CPS Safe Passage worker. According to CBS, Safe Passage workers make $10 an hour. Nelson said that’s not enough to cover the transportation costs for him to get to work. “It’s not right that I’m putting my safety on the line everyday while I’m struggling to survive, this is why I support CTU’s proposal,” he said.

“CPS employees need higher wages now, not in a couple of years, because many of our working families cannot wait any longer for a living wage—nor should they,” said CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey.

Janitors also say they’re understaffed, which makes for unsuitable conditions at schools. Lamont Christmas told ABC7:

"At my school there's about three of us, four. But I go around to some schools, there's one janitor cleaning up at night by himself. So he has 40 rooms and 15-20 bathrooms. Then if it's not clean, the company gets on him.”

Low pay, understaffing and other poor working conditions are something that demonstrations affiliated with the “Fight for 15” movement have highlighted over the years. The group is calling for a mass national demonstration on April 15. Sharkey said the CTU would join them:

“We’re also excited to commit to coming out and joining the Fight for 15 on April 15. It’s a national day of action for good jobs and higher wages. For fast food workers and now CPS workers earning less than $15, you can expect to see us, marching side by side this spring, and making demands for a living wage.”

Mayoral candidate Chuy Garcia also joined the demonstrators. “I stand here today as someone who understands the plight of thousands and thousands of Chicagoans in Chicago neighborhoods who need to increase their wages,” said Garcia. “They need to improve their wages so they can be better providers, and take care of themselves, so they can take better care of their families.”

Mayor Emanuel’s campaign took the opportunity to try to hit Garica, calling the rally a “stunt.” Spokesperson Steve Mayberry pointed to the required $13-an-hour minimum wage for city contract workers and CPS employees and Emanuel’s $13-an-hour ordinance passed by the City Council. “Chuy does a lot of complaining about Rahm, but Chuy’s total failure to achieve any of his promises at any point in his three-decade career should worry Chicago voters,” Mayberry told CBS.

Still, that $13 an hour minimum does not take effect until 2019, which by that time, will just be pennies above the Federal poverty line. According to a press release from WOCC, the “self-sufficiency wage” for a parent with one child in Chicago is $20.86.

Garcia reportedly attempted to dodge questions from reporters about how he would pay for such a wage increase, prompting what’s become a fast criticism that the candidate doesn’t have strong ideas about fiscal policy. After being pressed by reporters, Garica said that cutting waste at CPS, along with money that’s been given to “cronies of the mayor, to corporations, to investment bankers.” “If there’s enough money to make them happy,” Garica told CBS, “there ought to be enough money to pay for frontline workers within Chicago Public Schools.”