Custodians Push Back

Custodian Florence Caldwell offered two words of warning to school officials considering privatizing custodial services: “Remember Aramark.”

She was referring to the previous privatization of school food service and facilities management. Those contracts went to the Aramark company, which the school system later booted after complaints about poor performance.

Caldwell raised the specter of Aramark at Monday evening’s meeting of the Board of Education. She showed up with a dozen of her fellow AFSCME Council 4 Local 287 union members to speak out against a move to privatize custodial services, which could put her and other custodians out of work or lower their wages.

Board of Education Chief Operating Officer Will Clark said the comparison with Aramark is not valid, since Aramark took over management, not the actual custodial work.

School custodians have been working without a contract since June 30, 2009, during which time they have been in stalled negotiations with the school board. Meanwhile, the district has sent out a request for proposals seeking bids on a custodial services contract for the schools. Eight bids have come in and are being considered.

Click here to see who responded to the RFP.

Rafael Crespo, union member and head custodian at Edgewood School, said his colleagues came to the school board meeting Monday to try to set the record straight. “They been trying to make us look wrong,” he said. The school board has been accusing the union of being uncooperative, he said.

Clark has previously said that the custodian’s union has canceled eight negotiation meetings. Crespo said the union has done no such thing.

Larry Dorman, spokesman for AFSCME Council 4, acknowledged that several meetings had to be canceled last fall because a union representative had a medical emergency. But it wasn’t eight meetings, he said.

Clark has also previously said that private bids for the custodial contract are coming in at half the price the district is currently paying the union.

Crespo said he would be willing to work for $12 an hour if school officials pledge to do the same. “I have 10 kids. I need my job like everyone else does,” Crespo said before the meeting.

“Privatization hasn’t worked,” Dorman said on Wednesday. It leads to a loss of accountability, ends up costing more, and is “ultimately bad for the kids,” he said.

The contract with Aramark was “a costly failure for the taxpayers,” Dorman said. “I’m hard pressed to understand how they [school officials] are going to get it right this time around.”

Thomas MacMillan PhotoDuring the public participation portion of Monday’s meeting, Caldwell (pictured) expressed similar sentiments when she stepped to the podium to address the board.

Privatization leads to corruption, a loss of accountability, and destroys the “sense of community in schools,” she told board members, citing Aramark.

“We all are stakeholders in our schools,” Caldwell said. “Custodians relate to children, greet them, love them ... guide them.”

Public school grandparent and former school employee Hazel Pappas asked the school board why it would want to give custodial work to a private company. “All they did was make a mess of things,” she said. Instead of privatizing, the district should discipline custodians that aren’t doing a good job, Pappas said.

A representative of UNITE HERE Local 217, the school food service union, expressed support for the custodians.

Dave Cicarella, head of the teachers union, also threw in his support. He said he often tells new teachers that the two most important people in the school are the school secretary and the custodian. “They are part of the school fabric,” he said.

School board members did not respond to comments from the custodians.

After the meeting, Caldwell said the union has decided to start speaking out against privatization at all school board meetings from now on. “It’s going to be a regular occurrence.”

On Tuesday afternoon, Clark said the school district has a history of negotiating collaboratively with unions. He mentioned last year’s landmark teacher contract.

“The fact is, we have an established record of being able to work things out at the table,” Clark said. “You can’t do that if you’re not at the table.”

“We’re committed to working with the city,” Dorman said. “We’re really trying our best at Local 287 to reach an agreement.”

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posted by: streever on April 29, 2010  2:49pm

What a surprise, NHPS wants the custodians to take a pay cut. How much would that save? Doing the math, having all the employees who make OVER $100k take a 3% cut/furlough days would result in saving half a million dollars.

Restructuring the benefits of ALL employees ABOVE 70k in pay could save the same amount in addition.

Custodians, do not accept the lopsided deals they propose. At a time when New Haven needs to embrace a living wage more than ever, they are nickel and diming you instead of asking the top .05% of their employees to give up 3-4k a year.

posted by: Bravo on April 29, 2010  3:19pm

Bravo to all the custodians and supporters for finally speaking out against the lies that have been put out in the media from Will Clark.

The Custodians are exactually correct.

Also will outside companies be running background and fingerprint checks on their employees like the current school custodians were subject to? I doubt it. Because it costs money! Private companies are not going to dip into their profit.

I am a Live in New Haven totally support the custodians. My kids are in the school system and I can’t afford to trust some outside company ... to be in a school with my Kids.

posted by: Townie on April 29, 2010  3:44pm

Townie: I agree with Streever. The fish rots from the head down.
But, the Union is being unreasonable, as most Unions tend to do. If it is done correctly, privatization can be a cost-efficient way to keep the city’s schools clean. Hmmm…why stop at privatizing the custodial services, lets privatize the entire education system.
Unions in this nation have failed and now must realize they’re unnecessary and only a hindrance to long term job security. Unions had their chance to change things and they failed.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on April 29, 2010  4:59pm

Townie on April 29, 2010 3:44pm

Unions in this nation have failed and now must realize they’re unnecessary and only a hindrance to long term job security. Unions had their chance to change things and they failed.

How would you like to work under these conditions This is why we Need unions!!!!

posted by: Bravo on April 29, 2010  5:35pm

Hey Townie! Just remember without unions there would be no middle class. There would only be Upper & Lower class. Which would you fall into?

posted by: Townie on April 29, 2010  6:45pm

The whole purpose of Unions is not to establish and protect a middle class. Unions are supposed to gradually take ownership of the means of production. The middle class is the comfort that workers are lured into, while the owner class continue to profit off of our labour. The middle class is a joke; soccer moms, NASCAR dads, all of who would rather buy houses, tvs, cars, etc, In this age Unions squabble over healthcare costs and vacation days, while the owners simply set up production in non-Union shops and non-Union nations (think China). Now, the middle class has little choice but to become more and more dependent on the Government.  Unions failed, now it’s time to either radically change or just go away.

posted by: William Kurtz on April 29, 2010  7:01pm


Can you please tell us the name of the book from which you got your <ahem> ideas about the relationship between labor, unions, and owners?

posted by: Townie on April 29, 2010  7:31pm

Kurtz: Not just one book, but a little Marx, Baukunin, Kroptkin, Goldberg, and some of my own ideas thrown in. It is important for one to think for one’s self. We should all be moving towards communism and labour unions are a vehicle with which to progress. Think the Anarchist militias during the Spanish Civil War, or the Paris Communue. All examples of Labour owning and managing the means of production (more so Spain than Paris). Democratic communism is possible. Total equality is possible. Americans have just refused to think outside the narrow constraints of Neo-Liberal Imperial Capitalist ideology. Well, most Americans simply refuse to think at all.

posted by: the fact on April 29, 2010  7:38pm

Townie you said “But, the Union is being unreasonable” how would you know that I speak from first hand knowledge that the custodians are nre not being unreasonable and I have proof of that.In fact the custodians have given more in the last 5 years then any other bargaining unit .This is simply the old beat the people at the bottom.Why so they can pay there friends at the top.The facts will come out soon.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on April 29, 2010  7:56pm

A. Phillip Randolph
“The essence of trade unionism is social uplift. The labor movement has been the haven for the dispossessed, the despised, the neglected, the downtrodden, the poor.”

“A community is democratic only when the humblest and weakest person can enjoy the highest civil, economic, and social rights that the biggest and most powerful possess.”

Thank god for unions.

posted by: Why not look into this on April 29, 2010  8:16pm

The custodians of local 287 (union)and the (union supervisors 3144) have worked under the direction of AFB for the last 2 years.Before that we worked under the direction of Aramark some ten years as did our brothers and sisters of food service local 217 (union).Now I defy any investigative reporter, news Agency,60 minutes,Glen Beck,taxpayer,  New Haven Citizens’ Action Network (NHCAN), Jeffrey Kerekes or any citizen for that matter to look into that mess.Instead of bashing the Unions lets get the facts.If custodians are out sick or were not performing there work properly that would be a management issue.So now we start to add up the cost of all management in charge of the BOE Aramark way over a million a year.Then of course there is the BOE supervisors who had to listen to Aramark so they could not do what they were paid to do.Then we all the pays from gateway.Now I ask any of you how do theses people have the nerve to blame a worker for anything.Do they get paid to make sure this kind of stuff did not happen.Should the mayor blame the custodians or should he blame all the people he paid (tax payer money) to make sure this did not happen.Of course not blame the men and woman at the bottom.What did Aramark do well for one they fed our kids junk so they could skim off the top thus getting richer.They had an unmitigated disaster in the custodial/maintenance department robed the taxpayers blind.Now food service has chef Tim and he is doing a good job the workers like him the kid’s are getting better food.Will Clark like to say Chef Tim is doing a great job (whic he is) Will like,s to boost how much AFB has saved on energy.Let us remember who got rid of Aramark it was the Unions.Here is my question why do we look to replace the bottom when the top is broke.Simple because they can and they will so they can do just what the banks and wall street did .Someone look into this I defy you.

posted by: little do you know on April 29, 2010  8:16pm

I want to start off by saying that I love my custodians, personally. However, the building is a mess all day long. Not very much is done at night.

I’ve even knocked on the custodian’s door to ask a question. He didn’t even turn the lights on before he answered, bleary eyed. I had awoken him.

I don’t know what can be done about this situation. Maybe they are pissed about not having a contract? But sheesh. More than just sweeping the floors is part of the job.

posted by: anne on April 29, 2010  9:01pm

I know the custodians at Edgewood School well.  They are definitely part of the school family.  They are kind and considerate as well as doing a good job of keeping the school clean.  They are patient when a child needs a room unlocked to retrieve a text book.  Recently, I got to know the custodians at Fair Haven…and they too were kind and considerate and hardworking and patient.  Surely having people who care about the building/community where they work is worth a great deal!  Surely privatizing will cause great upheaval in all these relationships and job performance.  It is not a bad thing for people who do a tough job to be paid a living wage.

posted by: William Kurtz on April 29, 2010  9:10pm

But then, Townie, how do you square this march towards communism and equality with the call to eliminate the unions and privatize the custodial services in your first comment?

posted by: Jaime on April 29, 2010  9:22pm

Will Clark has stated that private bids for the custodial contract are coming in at half the price the district is currently paying the union.  That means they will only do half the job our current custodians do.  Millions of taxpayers dollars have been spent and wasted trying to manage custodians.  All have failed.  Some how the mayor thinks privatization is the answer to save millions.  When you take in account the cost of the private company, plus the contracts for Landscaping 50 schools plus snow removal-where is the savings that is solving this problem? 
Why cut 200 plus jobs from a budget that has always been balanced?  As a teacher and taxpayer I see the bloated salaries, the contracts for outside companies to perform assessments, and the many contradicting consultants that have been brought through the schools. All items that could be cut-even eliminated. Floors at Gateway are leased for $60,000 a year (proposed by Mr. Clark himself) WHY? The city owns vacant buildings. 
There are so many WHY’s in the BOE budget and ousting the custodians is starting to sound more like a vendetta against them.  Privatizing custodians is not going to bring more books/supplies into the classroom, and its not going to provide extra activities/tutoring.

Townie-It sounds like you were born into money and never had to work for it.  Some of us are fortunate to have been “lured” into the middle class.  We get up every day and are thankful for the job we have, and the money we make to live in this city and provide for our families.  That’s living-not a “joke.”

posted by: Is this the same Destefano on April 29, 2010  9:38pm

Is this the same Mayor Destefano This guy wants to privatize the work of Unionized Custodians in his city. OK this was an new haven independent article dated Jun 27, 2006 laboe lifts Destefano It was DeStefano’s crowd at the state AFL-CIO convention Tuesday. Union leaders Union leaders delivered an important endorsement to DeStefano.Some quotes from John Destefano 1) DeStefano gave a rousing speech to the delegates. The campaign lined the dais with 14 rank-and-file union workers. They stood behind DeStefano as he spoke about how he’d arrived there because of the hard work of people who, figuratively, stood behind him 2)After speaking of his father’s history as a unionized cop, and the role unions played in helping immigrants build better lives in America, DeStefano took the crowd through a greatest-hits tour of the victories he helped deliver for organized labor as mayor of New Haven. The workers standing behind him served as props to illustrate those victories.3)Ovella Watts was on the dais, for instance. She just retired after 30 years working at the Omni. As mayor, DeStefano brokered an arrangement under which the hotel’s new owners agreed to a card-check neutrality election that preserved a unionized workface.

“I stand for Ovella Watts,” DeStefano said, for “a place where you could work for 30 years, make a decent living, retire with a decent living. This hotel hasn’t fallen into the ground” as a result. In fact, it’s profitable,4) THIS IS THE BEST He also noted that, prior to the yale cancer center agreement, opponent Malloy invoked the controversy as a reason to back him instead of DeStefano. He quoted Malloy, who is Stamford’s mayor, saying, “What’s the problem with the mayor of New Haven? That wouldn’t happen in my city.’”

“He’s right,” DeStefano concluded, to applause. “That wouldn’t happen in his city.”

Is this the same guy who wants to get rid of his hard working union custodians that are trying support there family’s just like his father did for him.Hey lucky for him and his wife (union Teacher) and his kids mayor Destefanos father did not have a mayor like his son in office. ...

posted by: agor on April 29, 2010  10:29pm

the custodians work hard and care about their schools. by going private I can only see problems in the schools. Management has to weed out the bad ones so the rest of the custodians can keep their good reputation. they are constantly getting threatened about loosing their job. How would anyone like to work under those conditions? they care about the staff and the children in the schools. I know they are willing to go above and beyond their job to make the schools a better place for the kids.

posted by: see this on April 29, 2010  10:44pm

by: little do you know first off let me just say if what you say did happen you should of reported it to your administrator.If you did not repot it then you are just as bad as the custodian you discribe.If you did report it and the administrator did not report it then he/she are as bad as the custodian you discribe.If in fact the administrator did report it then supervison is as bad a s the custodian you discribe.The point is yes there are some bad custodians just like there are some bad well what ever you are.

posted by: Tom Burns on April 29, 2010  10:49pm

Alright fella’s get back to the table and get it done—-I am sure the mayor will show his integrity and honor by staying with our present unionized employees——-as will Mr. Clark——-I don’t know the details but I do know the mayor will stick by his beliefs——-Here’s hoping our valued custodians are given their due—-I have taught in New Haven for the past 14 years and every custodian I met has always gone beyond the call of duty—Keep up the good work guys——we need you—Tom Burns

posted by: Brian V on April 29, 2010  11:57pm

Great Job Will Clark!
This is exactly the kind of leadership we need in government in New Haven today.
In a perfect world everyone would make twice what they are worth, sorry, it’s not a perfect world. Why as tax payers, are we supposed to pay the cost of TWICE the going rate for custodians? Let all these people re-apply to the new private company, and if they are so good at what they do they will still have a job -or maybe someone better and cheaper will come along and get a job that they didn’t have before. This privatization has been estimated to save the city $7,000,000! Does management need to change, too? Absolutely, but if the whole fish is rotting cut away the rot, piece by piece.
The city is in a huge budget crisis, tough decisions have to be made. I am glad someone is finally speaking honestly about real savings to the tax payer. Way to go Will!


posted by: Old Yankee on April 30, 2010  7:06am

Those in power (in this case liberal New Haven leadership) will do what ever it takes to remain in power.  Democrates are running scared.  The current New Haven elite cannot continue to raise taxes and win elections.  They embrace unions strickly to win elections.  Throwing the custodial union membership under the bus is just another example. The custodial union members (and all citizens) need to do what is best for themselves, and their families. Vote the bums out. 
Additonally, the business elite do the same thing.  Think Goldman-Sachs, and jobs exported to China

posted by: Townie on April 30, 2010  8:03am

Kurtz: My point is that the Union has failed, just as all Unions have, to make an actual difference and progress towards true ownership of their industry.
The push to privatize custodial services shows that Union labour is not any safer from lay-offs and job elimination than non-Union jobs. Given this reality, have the Unions made any real permanent changes to the economic paradigm? The custodians’ Unions are being unreasonable because they fail to realize that they are in a position of little to no power. Once the taxpayers realize that the less expensive solution is to hire non-Union contractors than the Union workers will most likely be out of a job, at least a job with NHPS.

posted by: cedarhillresident on April 30, 2010  9:11am

I am a pro union person… it was beat in my brain as a kid. Unions are needed to protect the workers against the wrongs in the work place. I believe in a living wage.
But the way I see it some unions have to recognize that when times are good everyone benefits but when times are bad we all have to cut.
Alot of Unions now a days…are still in the times are good stage…. and they are not. The people you fight to get the money from do not have it to give…that is a simple concept to grasp. CAN"T GET BLOOD FROM A STONE. Unions all over the country are making HUGE consections for there members for one simple reason…. to keep peoples jobs. the state workers have been the leaders of this. FURLOE DAYS ect. At least the ones I know up at UCONN.  Fine you want this and that…. then people will lose there jobs because the MONEY IS NOT THERE. So your bother next to you gets laid off and you keep your job and do twice the work.  Unions are a good thing but….when they refuse to work on a realistic level…they are the doom of the workers in this day and age. With that said.
I support Wills innovative thinking. BUT Will we really need to look at the top in the BOE and get rid of the high priced paper pushers and the slackers that are NON UNION. THOSE ARE NEEDED CUTS and will save tax dollars for the tax payers and we may actually see so of the millions of dollars that go into the BOE make it to the dam class rooms!!!!!!!!!!!!

posted by: the scapegoat on April 30, 2010  9:51am

the mayor, reggie mayo, and will clark want to use the custodians as the scapegoats. what kind of job is the mayor doing in new haven? lets see building god knows how many new schools that he is not gonna be able to afford too maintain now or in the future, more kids are being murders every day than ever before, taxes are continuously being raised, its like the man said at the budget meeting the other night he is pushing the middle class out of new haven, well he is also tryin to push the middle class out of how about what a good job reggie is doing. reggie the school system been failing for years so that tells me it is your fault you are the superintendant but instead of privatizing you for you letting the children of new haven down they hire an asst. super for another 100,000 plus cmon where is the accountibility. my point is i would not like to see anyone out of work during these harsh economic times. i am starting to think the mayor ,reggie and mr. clark wants to see people out of work. ihave children iam trying to put through school i have a mortgage i have to pay . obviously the three musketeers dont care about my kids becoming something inthe future or that i will lose my house and have nowhere to live because lets be real where are you going to live on 12.00 an hour with a family.they are trying to turn the public against the custodians there are some bad custodians but there are way more good ones that care about there job. there are bad teachers cops firefighters paras, people working at gateway, people working at city hall , people working for the state, the government subway walmart i could go on and on. my point is ther are good and bad employees everywhere including yourselves but you dont just throw good people into the streets in times like this that just gonna result in more crime for you mr. mayor. the mayor to lincoln basset the other night to tell the people from that neighborhood that he wants to save money by ridding new haven of the custodiansbecause were bumbs and we never come to work(untrue).he thinks that is what they want to hear because all of the murders that are happening on his watch. he tells them that cause he thinks they want to hear by saving money thru us he will hire more police (scapegoats again) but they from that neighborhood or any other neighborhood should not want to see anyone out of work. remember john you are the leader so you should put the blame on yourself not the custodians or anyone else maybe you should be thinking of privatizing yourself or admit were in a jam that you led us into and we all ned to work together to get out of . because i know the custodians of local287 always have and always will be willing to work with the you. before privatization a real union man like heclaims he is would look fro any other course of action

posted by: Borristt on April 30, 2010  10:00am

The fact of the matter is the whole city is broke, but looking into privatizing the custodians isnt going to save any thing unless everybody weather union or nonunion has to take a hit, and the mayor should be the first one and then maybe everyone wouldn,t mind but until that happens no body should give back nothing.He had no business giving a three pct raise to the teacher just to try to pass this school reform.The bottom line is if your not doing what you get paid to do then you should be let go,thats what happens in the real world,weather you are union or not!! Its called accountability.

posted by: Morris Cove Mom on April 30, 2010  11:11am

I think Will Clark should lead by example, and take the same kind of pay cut/pay freeze he is suggesting for everyone else.  But guys like him and the mayor, who both earn over $100,000 each, never do.

If the custodians cost too much, then cut back to 1 per school.  And then see how many students, parents, and faculty members complain when everything is filthy.

$12 an hour is not a liveable wage.  Do the math.  $22.75 and hour is what it takes to afford a 2-bedroom apartment in this town, never mind a mortgage with our taxes.

If they want to cut the budget, then layoff 50% of the custodians, double the remaining staff’s hourly rate, and save all the benefits money.

Or go back to school and take Econ 101.  I swear, I learned to balance a budget harder than this in 8th grade Home Ec.  This city, this Board of Ed is ridiculous.

posted by: NHPS Teacher on April 30, 2010  3:24pm

I am a New Haven Public School Teacher. Here are some things I know to be FACT:

1. I was at an all union meeting at Wilbur Cross a little over a year ago. There were some custodians there and they tried to pitch many ideas to the mayor himself such as furlough days , paying more towards medical & Pention. They even offered to open up their contract with only a few months remaining to give back some other items in their contract as long as they could revisit it every year so that they wouldn’t lose it forever. The Mayor flat out told them NO to all of these options. He stated and I quote ” I’m not interested in those options I’m only interested in what I can get permanatly”. To which one custodian asked if he would be willing to give them back there consessions down the line in say 5 years or so and the Mayor said “absolutly not”. The custodians then had every union there on their side and the mayor would no longer answer any of there questions or concerns and told them to speak to one of his cronies Greg Minenite in the back of the auditorium.

2. After all the happened at that meeeting the custodians still opened their contracts to save the city money to move the engineer/custodians.

3. At my school Ross/Woodward the custodians are part of the school family. They walk us to our cars at night. Help us with anything we need that is not in their job description. They go above & beyond.

4. If any Union memeber in this city doesn’t think that this can happen to their union you better wake up and smell the coffee.

posted by: little do you know on May 1, 2010  9:34am


principal knows. remarks about it her/himself. litter remains on the floor. :(  some principals are afraid. some stand up.

posted by: Doyens on May 1, 2010  1:29pm

I’m fine with looking for cost savings among custodians. I find it a bit hard to believe the cost can be cut in half and the quality remain the same or better. Perhaps…

In the meantime, Clark and Co. should not stop there. Look at all consultants, the need for so many assistant principals at Cross, how the truancy officers hang out at school vs. chasing down kids that should be at school and are not, and the “special assignment” administrators. Can you multi-task?

posted by: LAUGHABLE on May 3, 2010  12:24pm

Tell Will Clark, Reggie Mayo, Garth Harries and all their cronies to take a REAL pay cut—not a microscopic percentage, and then jobs away from hard workers.