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Meet Jacqueline Marshall: “I love the kids. I tend to them like they are mine.”

Jacqueline Marshall has cleaned New Orleans Public Schools for the past six years with the same care and attention to detail she does when cleaning at home for her two grandchildren, who live with her.

Jacqueline Marshall: “I love the kids. I tend to them like they are mine.” — custodian

“I do a good job for the safety of the children,” Marshall said. “I don’t want bacteria growing. I want everything decent and in order the same way I have it at home for my grandkids. That’s important to me.”

Marshall was the head custodian at Abramson Science and Technology School up until May 1, 2012 when she was among 11 other Aramark, full-time workers in the Recovery School District (RSD) fired for no reason violating federal labor laws. The wrongly terminated workers are dedicated employees with as much as 22 years of service keeping New Orleans schools clean.

Aramark is a multinational, Fortune 500 company that receives taxpayer money to clean and provide food services in the Recovery School District. Firing full-time employees is one of many of Aramark’s union busting tactics as well as turning full-time positions into part-time, casual employment.

“When I found out I was fired, I was hurt and humiliated,” Marshall said. “Aramark didn’t give any reason.”

New Orleans School support workers – custodians, maintenance and cafeteria workers – are working to help improve our schools, and Aramark fired these long-term, devoted workers without cause.

“I love the kids. I tend to them like they are mine,” Marshall said.

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Aramark 12 Calls New Orleans School Leaders to Action

Members of the Aramark 12 along with community supporters and SEIU Local 21 LA president, Helene O’Brien held a press conference outside of the Recovery School District’s office on Tuesday, May 8.

ARAMARK, a Fortune 500 company, is receiving taxpayer money to clean and provide food services in the Recovery School District.

On May 1, 2012, Aramark fired 12 full-time workers in the Recovery School District (RSD) for no reason violating federal labor laws. The wrongly terminated workers are dedicated employees with as much as 22 years of service keeping New Orleans schools clean.   Firing full-time employees is one of many of Aramark’s union busting tactics as well as turning full-time positions into part-time, casual employment.

At a time when so many in our community are struggling to make ends meet, this profitable, multinational company is firing hardworking people and taking steps to turn full-time jobs into part-time casual employment here in New Orleans.

SEIU Local 21 LA president, Helene O'Brien speaks at the Aramark 12 press conference on May 8, 2012.

Linda France of the Aramark 12 speaks at a press conference on May 8,2012.

Nicole Mollett of the Aramark 12 speaks at the May 8, 2012 press conference.

Allies support the Aramark 12 at the May 8, 2012 press conference.

Statement by Service Employees International Union Local 21 LA President Helene O’Brien: May 8, 2012

My name is Helene O’Brien and I am the president of the Service Employees International Union Local 21 LA.  We represent school cafeteria, custodial, and maintenance workers here in the RSD since 2007.  And we stand here today to ask all New Orleans school leaders to come to the aid of school service workers because their jobs are under terrible and disgusting attack by a multi-million dollar corporation.

Many of us standing here today have supported much of post-Katrina school reform.  We have children who attend local charter schools.    We believe in our schools having high standards and doing whatever it takes to educate our children.  We want our children to have bright futures.

Unfortunately, while dedicated and hardworking educators have pushed our schools to get better and better, service workers’ jobs have gotten worse and worse.

  • Pre-Katrina, a cafeteria employee had 10 paid sick days.  Post-Katrina, they worked for 5 years without even 1 paid sick day, often going to work and preparing food when sick or staying home and getting an even smaller paycheck.  We finally won a few paid sick days last school year.
  • Since Katrina, the majority of employees in RSD school cafeterias were low paid, but at least had full-time jobs.  Now, Aramark, the multi-million dollar corporation, cut a majority of cafeteria employees’ jobs to just 4 hours per day.  Some of those 4-hour jobs even have a split shift, where workers punch in at 8, punch out at 9, stand around for an hour or 2 and then punch back in at 10 or 10:30 to work the lunch.  Parents of school children know the result – rushed and pressured meal times for their kids.  The workers certainly cannot survive this destruction of their jobs, financially or emotionally.

And now, this multi-million dollar corporation has taken over RSD custodial services, too.

  • Last Tuesday, Aramark fired 12 custodians in one day, claiming these employees did not make their “probation.”  All but 2 of the 12 fired employees have been cleaning the schools since 2006 or 2007.  One of them has been working as a custodian in the schools for 22 years.  Who said they were suddenly on probation??  Yet Aramark had no problem coming here and firing them with no explanation, violating the Just Cause language in the union contract.

This corporation doesn’t care if their attack on these workers causes havoc in their children’s lives.  This corporation doesn’t care if the workers now must work 2 or 3 jobs and never be home to raise their children. This corporation does not care about poverty and crime and instability in our city. But we do.  And we know you do.  And that is why we are here.

School support workers, parents of the very school children reformers are moving heaven and earth to educate, deserve the same respect and dignity other school employees receive.  They deserve a fair wage.  They deserve a full-time job.  They deserve paid sick and vacation days.  They deserve a voice on the job. We ask all of New Orleans’ school leaders to support Fair Standards for Support Workers, which include:

  1. Living Wages so families can sustain themselves.
  2. Sick and Vacation Days so workers do not have to choose between their jobs, their health, and their families.
  3. Full-Time Work so families can earn enough to support themselves and receive healthcare benefits.
  4. Transparency so that workers can ensure they are treated with fairness and respect.
  5. Respect For Our Rights so that workers can freely form a union without fear of retribution or termination.

And we ask everyone – school leaders and other personnel, parents, and community leaders to call Aramark and demand they change the part-time cafeteria jobs back to full-time jobs and that they reinstate the 12 fired custodians immediately.

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Save the Aramark 12!

On May 1, 2012, Aramark fired 12 full-time workers in the Recovery School District (RSD)  FOR NO REASON violating federal labor laws. The wrongly terminated workers are dedicated employees with as much as 22 years of service keeping New Orleans schools clean.   Firing full time employees is one of many of Aramark’s union busting tactics as well as turning full-time positions into part-time, casual employment.

Tell Aramark this is not acceptable. Let Aramark know that we are not going to allow this outside company to come in and exploit our communities. We are working to improve our schools and we won’t stand for Aramark disrespecting the employees that help make the schools work by firing long-term, devoted service workers without cause.

Call Aramark at (225) 226-3723.

Call Recovery School District (RSD) superintendent, Patrick Dobard at (504) 373-6200.

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Member Delegation Visits State Capitol

A delegation of SEIU 21 LA members from across the state visited the State Capitol in Baton Rouge on April 25, 2012.

Members spoke to members of the House and Senate about issues relevant to working families.

SEIU 21 LA Delegation of Members

Representative Girod Jackson III, Democrat District 87, speaks with Everett Armand, Jefferson Parish School bus driver (owner operator) and LaTanja Silvester, SEIU 21 LA political organizer.

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Improved Bus Service Coming to Baton Rouge, Baker: CATS Tax Wins

Congratulations to Together Baton Rouge and SEIU 21 LA members for helping get out the vote on the importance of voting in support of the CATS tax.

East Baton Rouge Parish School bus driver Lashawn Dundy is among 21 LA members who went out into the community to spread the word about the importance of the CATS tax. Dundy made phone calls and went out into the community door-knocking.

The CATS tax, a 10.6-mill property tax, was approved in both Baton Rouge by 54 percent to 46 percent and in Baker 58 percent to 42 percent in Saturday’s election. However, failed in Zachary by 21 percent to 79 percent.

The CATS operating budget will receive an additional $17.2 million annually, which will result in dramatic improvements to the quality of the Baton Rouge public transit system, reducing wait times from 75 minutes to 15 minutes, creating eight new express and limited-stop lines and laying the foundation for Bus Rapid Transit and light rail in the future.

LaTanja Silvester, 21 LA political organizer, said: “The 21 LA members really owned this campaign. Our members were dedicated and truly enjoyed the processing of getting out the vote. We knocked on doors and made phone calls to explain to the community just how crucial this election was, and we won. An improved public transit system is sure to increase economic development for Baton Rouge and Baker.”

Here is a list of promised  improvements:

• Decreased average wait times from 75 minutes to 15 minutes.

• Eight new express and limited stop lines, serving the airport, universities, mall and other areas.

• GPS tracking on the entire fleet, with exact arrival times accessible on cell phones.

• New shelters, benches and signage at bus stops.

• Expanding service to high-demand areas and increasing routes from 19 to 37.

• Three new transfer centers operating in a grid system to replace the outdated route system which leads all buses back to Florida Boulevard.

• A foundation for Bus Rapid Transit, a system where buses get their own right-of-way-lanes.

To read more, click here.

To read about the work SEIU 21 LA members did in support of CATS, click here.

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Get out the VOTE Saturday, April 21: CATS, New Orleans Council-at-Large

Voting is your right and RESPONSIBILITY. There are two important elections that will be held on Saturday, April 21 in Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

BATON ROUGE

In Baton Rouge, voters will decide whether to pass the CATS tax, a dedicated revenue source for public transit for the Baton Rouge community. SEIU 21 LA supports this measure.  If passed, it will result in dramatic improvements to the quality of the Baton Rouge public transit system, reducing wait times from 75 minutes to 15 minutes, creating eight new express and limited-stop lines and laying the foundation for Bus Rapid Transit and light rail in the future.  If the CATS tax does not pass, it will mean that all public transportation in East Baton Rouge Parish will come to an end in July of 2012, with devastating consequences for our community.

NEW ORLEANS

New Orleans voters will chose the at-large City Council seat. The runoff is between Councilwoman Stacy Head and former state lawmaker and Councilwoman Cynthia Willard-Lewis.

Please get out and vote on Saturday.  Your vote matters.

Cynthia Willard-Lewis shown with 21 LA Members in September 2011.

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21 LA Leaders, Michael Mason, Lashun Dundy Walking to Support CATS

Residents of Baton Rouge, Baker and Zachary will vote on Saturday, April 21 whether to create the CATS tax, a dedicated revenue source for public transit for the Baton Rouge community.

If the election passes, it will result in dramatic improvements to the quality of the Baton Rouge public transit system, reducing wait times from 75 minutes to 15 minutes, creating eight new express and limited-stop lines and laying the foundation for Bus Rapid Transit and light rail in the future.

If the election does not pass, it will mean that all public transportation in East Baton Rouge Parish will come to an end in July of 2012, with devastating consequences for our community.

SEIU Local 21 LA has partnered with Together Baton Rouge to do our part to ensure the growth of the Baton Rouge transit system. 21 LA members have spent the last few weeks out in the community talking to neighbors, friends, family members and even community leaders on the importance of voting YES on April 21.

Michael Mason, a pump mechanic with the City-Parish of Baton Rouge in the Department of Public Works and 21 LA leader, has been spending Saturdays and even time after work to help spread the word on the importance of the CATS tax.

“We don’t want our bus system to shut down. We have a lot of residents here in the city that depend on the bus to get back and forth to work and to do their daily duties,” Mason, 43, explained. “ A lot of people have cars now but were once city bus riders. They respect the bus system.”

Mason enjoys going out into the community to meet people and raise awareness.

“By being a union member, I believe that you can’t do anything by yourself,” Mason said.

Like Mason, 21 LA Leader Lashun Dundy, believes community engagement is paramount.

Lashun Dundy speaks at the March 31, 2012 Leadership Meeting.

“I explain to coworkers why we have to get involved,” said the 33-year-old East Baton Rouge Parish bus driver.  “We have to understand legislation and politics and how they impact us. We have to learn about society to make things better for our kids.”

Please vote YES on Saturday, April 21 in support of the CATS tax.

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Leadership Training: March 31, 2012

Leaders from throughout SEIU 21 LA — Jefferson Parish bus drivers, Baton Rouge City-Parish workers, East Baton Rouge Parish bus drivers — gathered at the Clarion Inn in Gonzales on March 31, 2012 for a Leadership Training.

Executive Board Member Jesse Herman, 21 LA President Helene O'Brien and Executive Board Member Alvin Rattle at the Leadership Training on March 31, 2012.

East Baton Rouge Parish School bus driver Lashawn Dundy at the Leadership Training on March 31,2012.

At the Leadership Meeting on March 31, 2012.

21 LA Members at the Leadership Training on March 31, 2012.

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Bertha Jackson: East Baton Rouge Parish Bus Driver

Bertha Jackson, proud SEIU Local 21 LA member, has been an East Baton Rouge Bus Driver since 2003.

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Members meet with Kira Orange Jones to Discuss Education Reform

March 24, 2012: 21 LA members met with BESE board representative, Kira Orange Jones to discuss their education reform concerns.

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