Pictured above is page 34 of the new contract, along with the PPS board in the boardroom the day the new contract was passed, on January 21, 2020. Photo by Jack McArthur.

After years of wishing for higher pay, the PPS (Portland Public Schools) custodians finally got a win. In addition to having low wages, PPS custodians have been dealing with a severe employee shortage and legal compliance issues. On Tuesday, January 21, the new contract was officially established between SEIU (Service Employees International Union) and PPS at the PPS Board Meeting. This new contract, titled Resolution 6041, was passed by the PPS board, with a vote of seven to zero. The contract agreement includes wage increases, and the fixing of legal compliance issues. According to Whitney Ellersick, Sr. Director of Nutrition Services for PPS, these legal compliance issues mentioned in the contract included Nutrition Services staying in line with or ahead of minimum wage for Portland. “In the end we agreed to rates that exceed the minimum wage in all three years. Another piece that needed to be taken into consideration was the Oregon Equal Pay Act. After review of the lead positions in our kitchens, it was important to make them all one classification,” said Ellersick. Ellersick then described how the leads had two classifications in the past contract. The first classification was Elementary/Middle, and the second classification was High School/Roving Leads. She then described the contract. “Under this contract, we have one classification for leads, with a pay differential for our Roving Leads which recognizes that their jobs are more difficult because they have to travel throughout the district to cover absences.” This contract, Resolution 6041, is in effect through June of 2022.

According to Frank Leavitt, Sr. Manager of Facilities Services and Operations for PPS, pay increases will be given retroactively as back pay from July 1, 2019 and will be reflected on SEIU employees’ February 28 check. Other aspects of the contract language are being gradually implemented in conjunction with PPS and SEIU workgroups. Before the contract was ratified, PPS custodians were being paid only $14.95 to start. Now, in February of 2020, PPS custodians and nutrition service workers are receiving higher wages that are reflected in the new contract. As of November 2019, there were a total of 43 custodial vacancies within PPS—26 full-time and 17 part-time. According to Frank Leavitt, Sr. Manager of Facilities Services and Operations for PPS, there are only 27 vacancies now—14 full-time and 13 part-time. “We hope with our recruiting efforts and new wage increases, we will be fully staffed within the next two months,” said Leavitt. Nutrition services have seen improvement too. “Nutrition services currently has four open assistant positions in our kitchens, and are always hiring for roving assistants. Our numbers have drastically improved from the start of the school year,” Ellersick added. “I feel the contract that PPS and SEIU negotiated is beneficial to both parties. Both SEIU and PPS negotiation teams worked diligently on agreeable terms,” said Leavitt. He continued, “I believe the overall effects of the contract will be extremely beneficial. We negotiated competitive pay increases and working conditions for SEIU employees. We also negotiated building reclassifications that will result in promotional opportunities for many.”

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