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School Custodians Consider Co-Op To Keep Jobs

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ANN ARBOR (AP) - Custodians with Ann Arbor schools may form a worker-owned cooperative as part of an effort to keep their jobs if their work is outsourced by the district.

The custodians’ union AFSCME Local 1128 voted Saturday to pursue forming the cooperative. The district could contract with the co-op for custodial work without paying into the state retirement system for school employees, The Ann Arbor News reported.

Each of the custodians would be a part-owner of the organization and they could receive their same pay and health insurance.

“It’ll keep people in place where they are,” said union President Rick Redding. “We’re here for the kids, just like anybody else.”

The 114 union members recently learned that Ann Arbor Public Schools district officials were seeking to privatize custodial services. The district says the move would save about $1.8 million – the same figure officials used in 2010 during a previous discussion about privatization.

School board President Deb Mexicotte said the board hasn’t yet received a proposal from the union.

The co-op option was suggested to the union by Rabindar Subbian and Roland Zullo, who are parents of students in the district. Zullo, an assistant research scientist at the University of Michigan’s Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations, said he has proposed the co-op model to two other Michigan school districts in the past two years, but no districts have adopted it to date.

“We’re trying to sustain decent jobs in the community,” Zullo said. “The only way to do that is to not go the route of these big, private, for-profit firms.”

District officials on Wednesday plan to discuss earlier requests for bids on custodial services. The board also is expected to consider changing its contract for food service providers as well as take its final vote on its proposed budget for the 2014-15 school year.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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