Striking custodians greet Barrington High students on first day of classes
Students returning to Barrington High School for the first day of classes Thursday were greeted by custodians walking picket lines.
At about 7 a.m., a small group of custodians and Service Employees International Union representatives stood on the sidewalk north of West Main Street, just east of school property, holding signs that said "Poverty wages in Barrington" and "Can't live on $8.50."
"Some people around here pay their maids more money than these custodians," said Gerry Messler, an SEIU field representative.
The custodians are on strike to protest a move by their employer, RJB Properties, to cut their pay from $9.77 to $8.50 an hour, according to a union spokeswoman. RJB is contracted by Barrington Area Unit School District 220 to provide custodial services at the high school.
District spokeswoman Morgan Delack said RJB has provided additional custodial staff to the high school during the strike so the school is being cleaned as normal. Other custodians assigned to the school are not participating in the strike and came to work as normal, she added.
"The protesters did not cause any disruption to the school day so far," Delack said.
RJB declined to comment on the strike Thursday.
An SEIU representative said RJB announced its plan to cut pay during negotiations for a new labor contract. The previous contract expired at the end of July.
RJB's proposal to cut pay comes after the Orland Park company submitted the lowest bid, at $587,506, to provide custodial service at the high school this year. Their bid was $35,793 less than the next lowest bidder, and about $124,000 less than what the district paid RJB last year.
Although custodians have asked District 220 to intervene on their behalf, school board President Brian Battle said earlier this week he considers the dispute between RJB and the SEIU.
• Staff photographer Bob Chwedyk contributed to this report