What: Community Town Hall to Discuss Stafford County Public Schools Safety and Working Conditions
When: Saturday, August 27 at 3:30 p.m.
Where: Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Fredericksburg, 25 Chalice Circle, Falmouth VA 22405
Fredericksburg, Va. — Virginia Organizing will hold a town hall for the community to discuss the exploitative working conditions of Stafford County Public School custodial workers and the safety of the school environment on Saturday, August 27 at 3:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Fredericksburg. The event is sponsored by Virginia Organizing and the UUFF Social Justice Committee.
Stafford County Public Schools recently announced that ABM has canceled their contract to provide custodial services, and the school system is seeking bids from new contractors.
“We hope that positive things will come that will benefit us as workers,” said Elsy Bernal, an employee of ABM for the last five years. “Because with ABM we did not have good treatment, benefits or decent pay. We have worked hard for the schools, to keep them clean to protect the health of everyone, of the children, and I am proud of that. Today, things are worse with ABM because there is less personnel than months ago, we have a shortage of supplies and we have to beg them to provide us with materials. In addition to the reprisals we have suffered for raising our voices. I was threatened with being fired during the summer, for having raised my voice. This has to change.”
Manuel Ochoba has worked for ABM for 13 years.
“I hope that everything improves, that there is a change that benefits everyone, the workers, the schools, the students and the residents of Stafford. Let the work we do be valued,” he said.
Bertha Ríos, who has spent the last six years working for ABM, also reported reprisals from the company for speaking out.
“Sometimes I have lacked strength to move on. I have felt demotivated, frustrated because I have been subjected to abuse and retaliation by ABM for raising my voice. They suspended me without pay for three weeks for no reason. There have been times that I’ve thought that we didn’t really have anyone with the power to change things to listen to us, to support us, especially that the county had abandoned us and didn’t care what we were going through.
“And I have thought of those people who have died, who have fought to have 8 hours of work, fair treatment, wages and benefits, but that we have not achieved those benefits in our work with ABM. I work in a three story school building, and there are only two of us to clean it, and we are underpaid and mistreated. These days only one person has been left working, my partner, because I have contracted COVID.
“Today I hope that justice will be done, that the change serves to do justice, that in reality there is a change, a fair treatment and a fair salary. We are not asking for anything impossible. Yesterday I saw an ad for a dishwasher at Popeye’s where they offer a salary of $16 an hour. It is a shame that we barely earn the minimum established by Virginia after years of working taking care of the schools without any benefits.”
To interview a spokesperson, contact Jorge Mendez at firstname.lastname@example.org or 540-446-9868.