Barrington High School custodians ask Dist. 220 for higher wages

Updated 7/15/2015 11:10 PM

Custodians at Barrington High School are asking the Barrington Unit School District 220 board of education to do something about their falling wages.

The workers say their employer, RJB Properties Inc., cut their pay from $9.77 to $8.50 an hour after winning a new contract with the school district.


"We were struggling to support our families, now it is impossible," said Nora Samano, an RJB custodian who has worked at the high school for a year. "We are asking you to amend our contract to provide for a fair wage and basic benefits that other school workers enjoy."

Lonnell Saffold, director of institutional services for SEIU Local 1, said the janitors lack benefits, which can affect the health of students and faculty.

"These janitors get sick, they don't have sick days," Saffold said. "What do they do, they can't afford to stay home, so they come to school and get the kids sick, they don't have no other choice."

Saffold said the workers can't make it on $8.50 per hour, which is just a quarter above minimum wage.

"My plea to the school board is you somehow, some way look at your budget and see if there's some extra money somewhere for these hardworking, dedicated workers," she said.

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District 220 Superintendent Brian Harris said he intends to meet with RJB about the custodians' wages, but added that the issue really is between the contractor and its employees.

"We did the standard procedure we've done for many years. We did a request for proposal, RJB won the bid, we accepted the bid and awarded the contract," Harris said. "This is more a matter of what RJB can do for their employees."

According to district records, District 220 is paying RJB $587,506 to provide custodial service at the high school this year, which was $35,793 less than the next lowest bidder. RJB also won last year's contract with a $657,312 bid.

Board President Brian Battle said the district values the work of the custodians and hopes their problems with RJB are solved.

"We are hoping whatever disagreements may exist can get resolved in a very constructive manner so that everyone is happy and we can retain some high-quality janitors," Battle said.

RJB Properties did not return requests for comment Wednesday.

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