School support workers stay home in protest

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

ST. LOUIS -- Several school support workers didn't come to work Monday, apparently in protest of their latest labor package and concerns about lost jobs.

Their absence led to confusion as some schools started the day without food, water and electricity.

Denise Green, a custodian with the district for nine years, did not attend work. "I'm mad and I'm hurt because I can't even make ends meet," Green told KSDK-TV.

St. Louis schools also employ maintenance engineers, whose duties include turning on boilers, lights and other systems in the morning.

Several did not report to their jobs Monday, apparently in protest. The engineers' union, International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 2, had been told a plan calls for those jobs to be turned over to a private maintenance company.

The total number of workers who called in sick or did not attend work was not available Monday evening.

It has been a tumultuous school year. An outside management team, New York-based Alvarez & Marsal, and the school board have both come under fire because of decisions to close 16 schools and lay off about 1,400 workers. Officials said the moves were necessary to help eliminate a huge debt.

Public employees in Missouri are prohibited by law from strikes or other job actions.

Interim superintendent William Roberti said a core group of workers doesn't like changes made in the school district. He said workers must return to their jobs Tuesday.

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