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Florida school custodians awarded back pay, benefits after AFSCME intervenes

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Florida school custodians awarded back pay, benefits after AFSCME intervenes
By Mark McCullough ·

Up to 1,000 former and current Duval County Public Schools custodians will receive back pay and benefits after Local 2941 (AFSCME Florida) took legal action.  

 Arbitrator Jeanne Charles ruled last month that the workers were unfairly stripped of years or seniority — sometimes more than a decade’s worth — by a private contractor, HES Facilities Management, hired by the North Florida school district.  

 She ruled on the side of AFSCME members, saying that since the workers were continuously employed by the district’s contractor, they should have retained seniority and benefits.  

 “HES violated the CBA (collective bargaining agreement) when it eliminated the seniority of the bargaining unit employees,” she wrote.  

 The company took the position that all the workers were new employees, cutting their vacation, sick and holiday pay, and eliminating their health insurance at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. But the CBA has a “successor clause,” which protected the workers’ pay and benefits. 

 “By HES Facilities Management eliminating the original hire dates of the employees, this was a cost-savings to the employer, and placed them at an unfair bidding advantage,” said Elton Brown, a custodian and president of Local 2941. “All bidders were required to accept the years of service of all employees, which governs their vacation and leave accruals and their health coverages.”  

 Each worker’s case is being analyzed to determine the extent to which they must be compensated. Many of the affected members will receive back pay for holidays, vacation, paid time off and much more – yet another example of difference a union makes for workers.  

 With HES Facilities Management cutting wages and benefits, recruiting new workers has been a challenge. There are not enough people to do the job safely and not enough supplies, according to Local 2941 Vice President Lora Patterson, a custodian.  

 “Because we are short-staffed, we have to increase the numbers of rooms that each person has to clean,” she said. “We couldn’t always do a thorough enough job and sometimes lacked basic protections of safety glasses, booties and gloves to keep ourselves safe.” 

 AFSCME Florida will continue to fight for adequate staffing and resources for the members of Local 2941 and all working people in the state.  

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