I write regarding the West Windsor-Plainsboro Board of Education’s move toward privatization of about 125 custodial jobs.
I served on the WW-P board in the mid-1990s. I then relocated to Connecticut and now follow school issues from afar. Had the privatization idea come up when I was in office, I would have opposed it primarily because I don’t think the people who spent years cleaning floors in our kids’ schools should be in fear for their livelihood. But I understand the current board’s dilemma. When you try to maintain competitive teacher salaries, manageable class size, and affordable tax rates, something has to give. Apparently, in this case, it’s protection for a stable, loyal custodial staff.
But the board can do at least one important thing. Here in Connecticut we have something called the “Standard Wage Act,” colloquially known as “Justice for Janitors.” Its provisions include a mandate that when public workers’ jobs are privatized, the contractor has to pay its employees the standard wage for the job and either provide health insurance or give workers the resources to purchase it for themselves. New Jersey may have a similar law. If it doesn’t, it should.
Simple fairness suggests that the board include in its contract specifications a requirement that the successful bidder agree to provide the prevailing wage for janitorial services and provide healthcare coverage for employees working in the West Windsor-Plainsboro schools. These provisions will help recruit and retain a stable, reliable work force. Just as important, they will make it possible for teachers, parents, and students in this affluent district to look custodial workers in the face.
Ronald C. Schurin