Burlington, VT – After a three and a half year campaign, Burlington school food service and custodial worker of AFSCME Local 1343 won an agreement that will bring its all of its members up to a livable wage by the end of the contract. This agreement is being celebrated as a ground-breaking victory. This is the second livable wage victory in less then a year, last fall the Burlington para-educators had the first livable wage victory in the Burlington Schools.
“It is incredibly exciting that after such a long struggle all the food service and custodial workers will receive a livable wage. Many of us struggle to make ends meet and work second jobs to get by,” says food service worker Sandy McAuliffe. “This a good step towards ensuring our families can meet their basic needs.”
The campaign for livable wages for Burlington food service and custodial workers has not been without struggle. It took three years of educating school board and community members, as well as organizing faith leaders, elected officials, other union members and hundreds of Burlington residents to show their support.
From the beginning of the campaign for livable wages, it was clear that in addition to being an issue of fighting poverty, it was also about gender wage inequity. This livable wage victory for food service workers finally helps to close the gender wage gap between municipal workers, who are guaranteed a livable wage by ordinance and are mostly men, and food service workers, who are predominately women and make less than a livable wage. “The fact that the food service workers are predominately women and were not guaranteed a livable wage was a clear example of gender wage inequity that is still all too pervasive in our society,” says Colin Robinson, Director of the Peace and Justice Center’s, Vermont Livable Wage Campaign. “It is wonderful that this inequity if finally being corrected within the Burlington school district.”
This livable wage success for food service and custodial workers helps to ensure that Burlington remains truly livable for more of its residents, however this is not the case for everyone. The Burlington Livable City Coalition (BLCC), a group of community organizations and unions that works to ensure Burlington is truly livable for all its residents, came together in part of this struggle. "The City of Burlington has been nationally recognized for being one of the most "Livable Cities In the Country", yet there are still thousands of families living in poverty and thousands of workers still being paid poverty wages. The Burlington School workers victory is a victory for the entire community. You cannot have a livable city without livable wages," says James Haslam, Director of the Vermont Workers' Center who helps coordinate the Burlington Livable City Coalition. "We know our city will be a better city when all the jobs pay real livable wages, when the children of this city are not forced to grow up in poverty, and when people can live in dignity. We thank the many people in this community who supported this fight and have joined the Burlington Livable City Coalition"
The agreement will bring food service and custodial workers up to a livable wage over the next four years. This livable wage victory comes of the heels of a livable wage victory for the Burlington para-educators last fall and is a huge step forward in making sure Burlington remains livable for all its residents.
See Burlington Free Press story "Burlington school workers earn new contracts" May 7, 2008