A union representing about 2,000 School District of Philadelphia employees voted to authorize a strike on Saturday, just over one week before school starts, the union announced in a press release.
32BJ SEIU, the union, voted to strike if it does not have a new contract by August 31, the date its current contract expires, the union said.
The union is asking for higher wages and adequate training programs, calling the conditions under the current contract “unacceptable.”
John Bynum, assistant district leader of the union, said the school district has not trained its teachers to de-escalate serious situations in schools, including active shooter training.
“The Philadelphia School District needs to respect us, protect us, and pay us living wages. Bus drivers, cleaners, and those who kept our schools open during the pandemic were called essential, now it’s time for that to be reflected in a fair contract for Philadelphia School District workers,” said Bynum.
Larisa Shambaugh, chief talent officer for the School District of Philadelphia, said she is hopeful that they can reach a fair contract that “values and supports our employees.”
“We deeply value the work of our staff who are represented by 32BJ SEIU District 1201,” Shambaugh said in a statement. “We continue to actively participate in conversations and negotiations to secure a new contract as soon as possible, without disruption to in-person learning to begin the 2022-2023 school year.”
The employees included under the contract are primarily bus drivers, bus attendants, bus mechanics, building cleaners, building engineers and trades workers.
The workers agreed to pay cuts and mandatory weekly contributions from their pay to help fund the school district budget, keeping children in school and sparing thousands from unemployment due to school closures, according to the union’s press release.
“SEIU 32BJ members have shown their commitment to Philadelphia’s Public Schools through the financial crisis and a global pandemic. They are simply asking for pay and training that honors their commitment to PSD and is in line with other union workers across the City of Philadelphia,” the press release said.