Durham school custodians demand $200K in back pay
Posted January 9, 2015
Durham, N.C. — Armed with signs and plenty of frustration, dozens of custodians showed up outside Durham Public Schools' administrative offices Friday morning demanding wages they never received.
"I'm waiting for my money," said Tempestt Watson, who is among the more than 140 custodians at public schools across Durham who did not receive paychecks for work done between Oct. 16 and Nov. 5.
"I got calluses on my hand. That's not easy," Watson said. "For me to not receive any money for 50 days, that's hard on me."
Superintendent Bert L'Homme addressed the group during its protest, saying he will submit a proposal Monday to the Board of Education asking that the school system pay $200,000 in wages, even though the custodians are technically not employees of the school system.
For its cleaning needs, the school system pays a company called Service Solutions, which subcontracts Integrity Facilities Management – the custodians' former employer.
But Integrity filed for bankruptcy, leaving the workers unpaid. Since then, most of the workers have been hired by a new company, but the employees say their benefits and hours have been cut.
"These are services for which Durham Public Schools has already paid, and it was Integrity's duty to compensate its employees," L'Homme said.
L'Homme hopes the school system will issue the back pay – the school board will vote on the proposal Jan. 22 – and then stand in as representatives for the custodians in bankruptcy court.
But after weeks of waiting, Watson is still skeptical.
"I don't want to see you talk. I want to see action," Watson said. "I want to see my money in my hand, then I can say thank you."