MEMPHIS, TN - Pay, benefits, retirement: Memphis City School custodians are worried when Memphis City Schools merges with Shelby County, their livelihood will be in limbo.
Earlier this week the Unified school board announced it will privatize custodial service. That would cut more than 700 jobs. Saturday, dozens of long time workers voiced their concerns about the merger and their fears of becoming unemployed.
AFSCME's monthly meeting turned into a question and answer session for those whose jobs are now on the line. MCS custodian for more than 13 years, Loraine Marr says, "You're not just taking a job from me and saying I can get another one and it will make everything alright, you're taking my livelihood from me and that's going to hurt me and my family."
In a move to save money the unified district says it will privatize custodial services. Marr makes more than $13 an hour. If she is lucky enough to be hired by the new private company, her pay would likely drop to less than $9 an hour. "You're constantly telling me it's to benefit the children," Marr says, "well if you take my job from me, I can't support my kids or grandkids that are in the school system."
Saturday's meeting was an opportunity to hear the concerns of workers before representatives meet with MCS human resources later this week. The assistant director of the union, Gail Tyree says, "For these people we want the best possible company, not the company that's going to do it for the least amount of money."
Tyree says private companies are known to pay employees less and work them more. "When they cut these salaries and the benefits to the workers, all they're doing is shifting the money to a different social service because people are going to have to go somewhere to subsidize the loss in pay."
Marr hopes it doesn't come to that, and hopes the union voices are heard. The Union will meet with MCS on Wednesday.