Janitors who work in Kansas City Public Schools have voted to join a union.
The union vote came earlier this month, when 90 custodians elected to join the Service Employees International Union Local 1, which represents more than 300 workers in the district.
The custodians work for the Marcis & Associates janitorial services firm, which earlier this year won a $10 million, three-year contract with the school district.
Union members had supported the district’s decision to give the contract to a new company, saying the previous firm did not recognize union workers and that schools had seen a decline in cleanliness amid understaffing.
Velma Chapman, a custodian at Lincoln College Preparatory Academy, said in a statement from the union that the custodians will be better able to care for the schools as members of SEIU Local 1.
“My coworkers and I came together on the job so we could have a voice in keeping KCPS as clean and healthy as possible,” Chapman said.
The Marcis & Associates custodians work in the district’s middle and high schools. The district has opted to outsource the work, rather than use its own employees, to save money on salary and benefits.
Elementary schools are cleaned by district-employed custodial staff, some of whom are union members. The district has a contract with those employees that goes through June.
SEIU Local 1 represents 3,000 workers in Kansas City and 50,000 across the Midwest. According to the union, the average janitor in the Kansas City area makes $1,295 a month — below the poverty line for families of two or more.
Nationally, the SEIU has been an outspoken supporter of the nationwide fight for a $15-an-hour wage.