Chicago Public Schools and the union representing school support staff reach tentative contract agreement

Chicago Public Schools reached a tentative four-year contract agreement with the union representing school support staff Wednesday night. Pictured: Chicago Public Schools custodial worker Tashanna Johnson prepares for a joint SEIU Local 73 and Chicago Teachers Union rally downtown on Oct. 23, 2019. (Ariel Cheung / Chalkbeat)

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The union representing school support staff came to a tentative agreement with Chicago Public Schools Wednesday night, ending a year of contract negotiations.

The four-year deal would create a baseline salary of $40,000 for all full-time workers represented by Service Employees International Union Local 73. The tentative agreement also calls for a 4% pay increase the first two years and a 4% to 5% increase the last two years of the contract. It will cover the current school year and expire at the end of the 2026-27 school year.

SEIU Local 73 represents about 11,000 school support workers, including custodians, special education classroom assistants, bus aides, security officers, crossing guards, and parent-workers. They have been working without a contract since June 30, 2023.

“These critical support staff professionals carry out vital work in our schools each day, supporting teaching and learning and ensuring the safety and well being of our students,” said CPS CEO Pedro Martinez in a press release on Wednesday evening. “This agreement reflects our District’s commitment to a fair and equitable contract.”

The union also successfully negotiated for more professional development and training, particularly for special education classroom assistants who work with students with disabilities, according to a joint news release. If approved, security officers would also transition from seven-hour to eight-hour employees, and all SEIU Local 73 members would get paid time off to observe religious holidays.

“After a year-long fight, our Union members are finally being recognized for their commitment and have secured much needed raises that will greatly improve the lives of these essential workers and provide the respect they deserve. " said Dian Palmer, President of SEIU Local 73, in a combined statement with Chicago Public Schools.

SEIU Local 73 members will have to vote in the coming weeks to ratify the tentative contract deal. If approved, the Chicago Board of Education must also vote to approve it.

The union started negotiations with the district in the spring of 2023, before their contract was set to expire on June 30, 2023. Most of these school workers are often paid lower than educators and school administrators — many of them making about $40,000 a year.

In February, the union secured a win outside of their contract negotiations when the school district announced that it would end its multi-million dollar deal with Aramark for the management of school janitors and cleaning services after 10 years.

Aramark was frequently criticized for the lack of cleanliness at schools and school custodial workers represented by SEIU Local 73 often voiced concerns about the lack of cleaning supplies.

Samantha Smylie is the state education reporter for Chalkbeat Chicago covering school districts across the state, legislation, special education and the state board of education. Contact Samantha at ssmylie@chalkbeat.org.

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