What if you and your co-workers were forced to leave a job you loved, to which you’d dedicated your career, so that non-union private contractors could be hired for a fraction of the cost?
More than 100 Nashua, New Hampshire, School District custodial workers had been facing that prospect for the past 2½ years. Until recently, that is.
Members of AFSCME Local 365 (AFSCME Council 93) finally won the battle against privatization of Nashua School Custodian services. Faced with the threat of politicians putting corporate interests before quality public services, members successfully mobilized to elect Nashua School Board members who understand the value and commitment of public service workers.
Following that victory, the board voted 6-1 in late February to negotiate a new contract with AFSCME members, whose contract had expired in 2016.
The Nashua community decided enough was enough after neighboring Chelmsford School District in Massachusetts decided to privatize, which led to in-school thefts by nonunion employees. Calls, emails, and letters began flooding the Nashua Board of Education’s office, supporting the public service workers who keep Nashua schools running.
The victory highlights the strength in numbers public service workers have when they join together in strong unions.
"Anyone who doubts the power and importance of union protection should take a long, hard look at what we accomplished in Nashua," said Council 93 Executive Director Frank Moroney.
Raymond DeRusha, a custodian and football coach in the Nashua School District, has been fighting this battle since day one and urging his co-workers to stick together in their union.
“The union has been right on our side the whole way,” he said.
Pictured: Raymond DeRusha at Main Dunstable Elementary School in Nashua, N.H. Photo Credit: Dave Kreisman
For public service workers devoted to their students, the privatization fight was personal.
“This doesn’t affect just 101 of us custodians,” said DeRusha. “It’s everybody. It’s our families, it’s our community.”
DeRusha emphasized that Council 93 members will never stop organizing for strong public services: “We will never give up. We will fight to keep our jobs and to keep our livelihoods.”