PineApple Report staff | June 4, 2020
Florida – A week prior to the April 27, 2020 Duval County Public School Board meeting, AFSCME Local Chapter 2941 union president- Elton Brown, was made aware of the fact that 700 custodial workers, at the time employed by ABM, a District contractor, were being laid off effective immediately!!
“We were dismayed to learn the week of April 20,2020—without any advance notice to allow for workers and their families to prepare contingencies–of the abrupt lay-off of nearly 700 frontline custodial employees…”
One can surely question the timing of this action taken by the contractor and the Duval County School District
To Brown this this was not only shocking, but a major blow to all the families affected by this decision. Without any preparation for the sudden loss of pay and subsequent benefits resulting from unemployment, the affected families would be impacted financially and emotionally. At the present time when uncertainty looms from the fears arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, the concern over this decision made by the school district and its contractor merits thoughts as to the consequences to greater community health concerns?
In his letter to the school district, Brown implored them to further consider the health care consequences of their actions while in the midst of a pandemic. “The fact remains that the custodians that work in DCPS facilities are the frontline of the defense against the Coronavirus…” As a result of the abrupt layoffs the district is now left with a very limited “skeleton” custodial staff and this certainly merits questioning whether this much-reduced custodial employees will be able to do what is necessary to carry out their jobs and to prevent spreading of the COVID-19?
Surprisingly quiet in this dramatic decision and discussion are the school board members. According to Brown, only one board member has reached out to him and expressed a willingness to help. Of the total seven school board seats, four are up for election this year. Three of the positions are open seats and the other is the seat currently held by Warren Jones, current Chair of the Board, who is seeking for re-election. All of the school board candidates will be seeking Mr. Brown’s and Local Chapter 2941’s endorsement and support. Mr. Brown explains how the Union candidate interview committee will be able to quiz the potential office holders on their future support of AFSCME employees as well as ask them to share their plans on how to help the affected employees. “I hope that we can impart the symbiotic nature of our relationship.”
As for the district Superintendent, Dr. Diana Greene, in response to AFSCME President Brown’s May 7th letter, she says that she is sympathetic to the unions concerns. Additionally, the Superintendent states that “we cannot speak on behalf of ABM nor can we make demands outside of the scope of the contract. We would encourage AFSCME to reach out to ABM with their concerns about the health and unemployment benefits mentioned in their email.”
As for ABM, according to their website, they are the 46th largest employer in the nation on the Fortune 500 and they have annual revenues of $6.4 billion dollars. Ironically, during this layoff, ABM has numerous postings for custodian positions throughout the county for several of the district’s schools. Mr. Brown tells the PineappleReport that he has been told that the laid off employees should be given first right of refusal as they rehire custodians back for the return to schools.
So, it remains to be seen what will be the results of the layoffs and what will be the financial impact and or benefits to DCPS and to the employees who were displaced? Will they actually be rehired given the large number of Florida’s unemployed workers who would be willing to do the job? Will they lose their seniority if they are rehired and start as new employees? Most importantly, will the school district be able to reopen with clean and disinfected Coronavirus-free schools upon the return of teachers, administrators and children?