Malden School Custodians Continue Battle to Save Jobs from Privatization
Malden, Mass. – Before a meeting of the Malden City Council on Tuesday, the city’s public schools’ custodians held a rally outside city hall calling for their jobs not to be privatized.
Up to 28 custodians, who are part of the Service Employees International Union local 888, may be out of the job if the city’s schools follow the example of privatization of custodial services set at Malden High School.
Mark DelloRusso, president of the union local, claimed that Malden City Mayor Gary Christenson had assured him he would there would be a dialogue when the two year private contract at the high school was up for renewal, but DelloRusso said he “never called me, there was no oversight … [he] never said a word about it, [he] just went and outsourced my jobs.”
The union rally was also calling on the city council to move the city’s school custodial budget out of the school committee’s hands, and place it with the public facilities department, which they claim will improve the supervision of custodial work, and create better services as a result.
In a meeting on May 27, the city council voted against transferring control of the custodial budget to the Public Facilities department, however, following a motion to reconsider the vote by one of the city’s councilors at Tuesday’s meeting, the council voted 8 to 3 in favor of giving oversight of the custodians to the department.
DelloRusso said before the vote was taken that a vote in favor of the transfer would mean “at least we have a battle to save” the custodial jobs.
He says the mayor “can still veto” the city council vote, but claims that then “it’ll look like he got rid of the custodians as opposed to the school department, because he’s trying to make it look like the school system did it, not him, but we’re going to put it back in his court,” adding that “we want him to save all the jobs,” and not just those custodians with seniority.
Steve Krzywicki, a custodian at Beebe school in Malden for the last 20 years, told the rally, “right now we don’t even have bags for our barrels, we’re trying to order them, but we’re told that they’re not even approving the purchase orders.
“In the past we used to have 40 custodians, when they opened up the new schools, when they started privatizing the other schools, we went down to 28, so how do they expect us to clean the schools when we don’t even have the guys,” he continued.
In a press statement, Mayor Christenson’s office said it “will continue to work with the [c]ity [c]ouncil as we proceed through the budget process. We of course value each and every employee of the city and take seriously our commitment to those employees and the jobs they hold.
“We also want to ensure that we have clean schools for our children. And finally, we need to reach a responsible and balanced budget that is sustainable in the future. How we achieve these goals is an ongoing process that will continue,” the statement continues.
The public schools’ superintendent David DeRousi was also contacted for press statement in regard to the privatization of the union custodial jobs, but a response was not received prior to the filing of this report.