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AFSCME to Duval County School Board: $12/Hour is not enough to live in Florida

Photo: Mark McCullough/ AFSCME
AFSCME to Duval County School Board: $12/Hour is not enough to live in Florida
By Mark McCullough ·
AFSCME to Duval County School Board: $12/Hour is not enough to live in Florida
Photo: Mark McCullough/ AFSCME

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The hardworking men and women who clean Florida’s Duval County Public Schools (DCPS) earn poverty wages of $12 an hour. Even custodians with decades of experience make only $12.72, not enough to keep up with inflation.

That’s why members and retirees of Local 2941 (AFSCME Florida) went to a school board meeting earlier this month to demand that board members push private contractor HES Facilities Management – which employs the custodial staff – to increase starting pay to at least $15 an hour in the next contract.

“Shouldn’t Duval County Public Schools, one of the state and nation’s largest systems, have the decency to pay workers more than just the legal minimum?” asked Elton Brown, president of Local 2941 and a DCPS custodian. “We can’t keep people working here at this pay. That is why we have to hire hundreds of new custodians every school year. We need good staff, and we need them to stay. Our staffing crisis means we are spending money on recruitment and training that we could be using for other school needs.”

Members launched a petition, alerted the media and turned out for the public comment period during the Nov. 7 school board hearing. Their message was so powerful that a few people at the meeting on other business joined Brown in encouraging the board to look into ways  boost the starting pay.

With wages for similar positions in surrounding counties starting at $15 an hour, the Duval County school system has been struggling with staff recruitment and retention for years. This has led Brown and other staff to devote more of their time training new employees.

“We are already doing the work of multiple people to cover the fact there is not enough staff, and too often we are having to train people on top of that,” said Brown.

Brown said that workers across the school district are closely following what happens to custodial pay. He said they see this as a matter of treating workers with respect and are not shortchanged due to the nature of their jobs.

Florida’s minimum wage is $12 an hour. It is scheduled to rise by $1 every Sept. 30 and won’t reach $15/hour until Sept. 30, 2026.

“We cannot afford another year without a raise,” said Brown. “We are already stretched incredibly thin. Duval County Schools custodians are struggling to survive.”

School board members have already been reaching out to set up one-on-one meetings with the contractor. Brown is hopeful that progress can be made at the next bargaining session, which will be after Thanksgiving.

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