Detroit school janitors strike averted
Custodians who work at Detroit Public Schools Community District buildings said Monday they have canceled a strike because negotiations continue.
On Saturday, the union representing the custodians, Service Employees International Union Local 1, took a strike vote against the school district and the company it contracts for janitorial services, US Metro.
“We hope that the lines of communication will allow us to continue a positive and productive relationship with US Metro that will lift Detroit with good jobs and stronger communities,” Matt Nicholson, the union's director of organizing, said in a statement.
Officials planned to announce the results of the vote during a news conference scheduled for Monday at the Detroit Board of Education headquarters at 3011 West Grand Boulevard. They said the event has been canceled.
"Detroit Public Schools’ custodians and janitorial contractor U.S. Metro have entered into positive talks ending the threat of a strike," the union said in a statement. "Productive conversations early this morning between the custodians, Service Employees International Union Local 1 and U.S. Metro have canceled today’s announcement of the strike vote taken on Saturday."
Detroit schools buildings are broken up into three zones, and Zone 2 and Zone 3 custodians are not unionized, Kathleen Policy, an SEIU spokeswoman, told The Detroit News on Sunday. She said the Zone 2 janitors who work for US Metro are at issue.
US Metro was awarded its Detroit schools contract in 2014, according to its website. about 180 custodians work for US Metro in Detroit and are "relying on public assistance to make ends meet," SEIU said.
US Metro and Detroit Public Schools Community District could not be reached for comment Sunday.
The threat of a janitorial strike loomed as the district is preparing for first semester Count Day on Wednesday.
School funding is determined by enrollment as of first and second semester count days, and each school district's foundation allowance from the state, though districts have some time leeway after Count Day to make sure students absent for whatever reason are ultimately counted.
The SEIU's Local 1 office represents about 50,000 workers in the Midwest. Its release claims that when janitors would approach management about "joining together for a voice on the job," they were "intimidated" by US Metro, and that the company has "retaliated" against those who spoke out.