Forest Grove custodians ask district to pressure contractor

Members of Forest Grove Custodians Chapter 301 and their supporters packed the Forest Grove School Board meeting last night to demand the district put pressure on the private contractor Sodexo for higher wages and better benefits.

Custodian Michael Parra asks the Forest Grove School Board for help in getting fair wages and benefits from Sodexo.

“Sodexo has ignored our concerns for too long; that’s why we’re coming to you,” custodian Michael Parra told the board. “Sodexo may sign our paychecks, but the students, our coworkers and the community see us as representatives of Forest Grove schools.

“Just like they do, we ultimately hold you accountable for how we are paid and treated. We’re asking for your help in getting fairness.”

Parra told board members that over the course of 15 years his pay hasn’t budged much past the minimum wage. He noted that, by comparison, the average custodian in the Portland Metro area makes $17.81 per hour — more than six dollars an hour than him.

Custodians must also pay $80 a week of their health insurance — and more to cover their families — which is an onerous cost for employees making minimum wage.

Forest Grove Chapter 55 President Kent Malapit and members of the teachers’ union also spoke on behalf of the custodians. One teacher described what Sodexo is doing with wages and benefits as being “oppressive.”

Later on in the meeting, the school board voted unanimously to renew its contract with Sodexo for another two years. According to the Forest Grove News-Times, the approved contract included a $35,000 increase to cover next year’s scheduled state minimum wage hike.

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