Press Conference: Response to Ann Arbor Public Schools Plan to Privatize Custodial Work

The majority of the Ann Arbor School Board surprised and shocked many by voting last week to end the long relationship with the custodial staff and their AFSCME union and instead hire a private company for those services. The decision was hasty and did not allow time for the workers to pursue their idea to form a worker coop that would save the District money and save the jobs of these important members of our school community.

On Friday, an ad hoc committee of union and community activists convened by the Huron Valley Central Labor Council met to assess new developments, talk through possible responses and work out the details. Our goals are to find ways to support the custodial workers, members of AFSCME Local 1182, limit the damage of privatization in this case and prevent others in the future.

This kind of privatization is not just a serious and unnecessary blow to the custodians, but also bad for the students and bad for the community.

We will hold a 6:30 pm press conference this Wednesday, June 25, just outside the Ann Arbor Downtown Library, 343 S 5th Ave, Ann Arbor, followed by a presence at the 7 pm School Board meeting upstairs. There will be brief statements from one of the custodial workers affected by the privatization, a parent, one of the developers of the worker co-op idea, a faith leader and a speaker from the Huron Valley Central Labor Council.

We ask that you set aside the 1.5 hours necessary to join us for the press conference and the first hour of the School Board meeting.

Please let us know if you will come by emailing e.ian.robinson at You can also join the Facebook event.


Challenging AAPS Custodial Privatization – Follow-Up Meeting

Activists from the Huron Valley Central Labor Council and the Washtenaw Community Action Team came together for a very successful meeting Monday night at the LEO/GEO offices. We now have a strategy for responding to the Ann Arbor Public Schools Administration’s effort to privatize custodial services.

We will be meeting again 7 PM this Friday June 20 at the LEO/GEO offices – Suite 340, 339 E. Liberty, Ann Arbor for updates on progress and additional planning.

Please join us if you want to be part of this important effort to defend the collective bargaining rights and living standards of hard working people in Ann Arbor.

Whether or not you can come to this Friday evening’s planning meeting at the LEO/GEO offices, please set aside time on Monday, June 23rd, between 3:30 and 4pm, for a possible action.

And please ask those who you know care about this issue to do the same! The precise nature of the action will be determined at our Friday planning meeting and announced shortly thereafter.

Questions? Contact Ian Robinson (e.ian.robinson at

Challenging AAPS Privatization — Strategy Meeting

Strategy Meeting for Challenging Ann Arbor Public Schools Privatization
MONDAY, June 16, 7pm
LEO/GEO offices, 339 E. Liberty, Suite 340, Ann Arbor

As some of you already know, on June 11, the Ann Arbor Public Schools’ Board voted 5-2 to privatize its custodial services by signing a contract with GCA Services Group, a subsidiary of the Blackstone Group. Only Board members Baskett and Lightfoot voted against the deal.

The Board majority ignored the request that it delay its decision until it could evaluate an alternative proposal, under which current employees would form a worker cooperative and contract with the AAPS for the services that they previously supplied as AAPS employees.

This alternative was supported by the union that represents the affected custodial workers, AFSCME Local 1182, by AFSCME’s state-level Council 25, by AAEA, the union representing Ann Arbor’s public school teachers, by University of Michigan academics such as Roland Zullo, and by parents of public school children such as Rabindar Subbian.

If the Board majority’s decision is allowed to stand, these workers will lose their jobs on July 1. They may apply for jobs with GCA, but the company is under no obligation to give preference to the workers who do so. Even if they do get the work, they will face major pay cuts. Employer contributions to their retirement and their health care will also plummet.

Rejecting the creative response put forward by the union in favor of the same old same old neoliberal prescriptions is exactly the wrong direction for Ann Arbor’s public schools and the community they serve. We’ve been following this kind of misguided policy for almost 40 years now. The result: income is becoming more and more polarized throughout the country and — as we’ll show in a report to be released in August — Washtenaw County is no exception to this rule. Job insecurity is growing at the same time. The School Board’s decision will reinforce this negative trends.

It is clear that Republicans in Lansing want to privatize public education as a whole, and are using annual budget cuts as a weapon for pressuring School Boards across the state to move steadily in this direction. The fundamental problem is the balance of political power in Lansing (and Washington), not the School Board. But we need to hold the School Board accountable for failing to even seriously investigate a better option when it was presented to them. They did not need to behave this way. Lansing cannot be blamed for this failure. They are entitled to have doubts about the cooperative option, but in that case they did not need to decide the issues so precipitously. They could have taken an extra month to help develop and assess the coop option.

The union’s proposal does not pretend that sacrifice by workers can be avoided. Republicans in Lansing have been able to ensure that much. Even under the worker co-op plan, these workers will lose employer pension and health contributions because AAPS will no longer be their employer. That is where the savings to AAPS come from. But at least current employees will have the security of keeping their jobs, at current wage levels. And the community will know that any profits from this process will stay in the county, not disappear into the pockets of wealth out-of-state shareholders.

It is unacceptable that the Board’s majority should refuse to assess properly a serious alternative approach that promises to minimize the damage done by bad budget decisions in Lansing while also meeting the budget goals that the Board must achieve.

What can we – Ann Arbor’s taxpayers, parents, union members, and progressive activists — do about this? Plenty, I think. Possible responses include (1) one or more events designed to raise public consciousness about this bad decision and the alternative to it; (2) supporting up to four AAPS School Board members in the November 2014 elections; and (3) helping to develop and promote an alternative, worker and community-friendly vision of economic development in our region, to piggy-back on reports on growing poverty and inequality that will be released by the United Way and the Huron Valley Central Labor Council in August 2014.

You may well have additional and/or better ideas. Please bring yourself and your ideas to our strategy meeting at the LEO/GEO offices this Monday (June 16th) at 7pm! If you are interested in attending, please email Ian Robinson at e.ian.robinson at to let him know. (Rabindar cannot come but he will phone in; if you are in the same situation, let me know!)

Volunteer for More Buses Campaign

The Michigan AFL-CIO is recruiting volunteers to reach out to union and Working America members between now and the May 6th vote on the millage increase to expand public transit in Washtenaw County. We want to make sure that YES side prevails. Here is the sign-up schedule:

Tues (Apr 29), 6:30-9pm @ GEO/LEO offices
Thur (May 1), 6:30-9pm @ GEO/LEO offices
Sat (May 3), 2-4:30pm UAW Local 898 hall
Tues (May 6), three shifts @ IBEW Local 252 hall

Sat (May 3), 10am-12:30pm & 1:30-4pm @ UAW Local 898
Sun (May4), 1:30-4pm @ UAW Local 898

To volunteer, please contact Ian Robinson (HVCLC President) at or Erin Butler (MI AFL-CIO Political Coordinator) at

GEO/LEO — 339 E. Liberty St., Suite 340, Ann Arbor.
UAW Local 898 — 8975 Textile Rd., Ypsilanti.
IBEW Local 252 — 7920 Jackson Rd., Ann Arbor.

Conference: GOOD JOBS FOR ALL (U of M)

Welcome, welcome! The WCAT will host it’s second ‘Good Jobs for All‘ Conference at the University of Michigan on Wednesday April 9th from 6:00-8:00 p.m. Here is the link to the Facebook event. Here is the Flyer.

Below you will find a thorough description of the event:

I. Summary: The Good Jobs For All conference brings together four organizations dedicated to improving the lives of the working people. The purpose of this interactive conference is to unify the efforts of these four organizations, provide participants with quality information about working struggles/movements, educate them on how to get involved, and encourage both the faculty and student body to become leaders within their community. At a bare minimum, we will all walk away from this conference with an advanced understanding of organizational structures, dynamics, and strategy. If you ever wanted to learn how to run an organization, what it takes to be a leader, and/or further your understanding of the economic/political complexities of the working people, this is the conference for you.

II. Brief Agenda:

1. Walk in, grab some grub, get comfy.

2. Next, participants will listen to a very short presentation from each organization. Based on these presentations, participants will pick which organization they would like to learn more about.

3. We will break up into discussion groups based on the organization of your choosing (i.e. if you chose the WCAT, you will go with the WCAT group). Here participants will get to share stories, experiences, or information about the organizations they are currently apart of and learn more about the organization they chose to learn about. Here is where participants will get to further their understanding of the organization’s current campaign as well as other organizational nuances (such as effective recruiting and tactics, maintaining membership, building leadership, and just about anything else you want to learn about).

4. Wrap-up, survey, and a T-SHIRT GIVEAWAY!

We hope this conference fulfills your desire to learn, engage, and act.

III. Conference Subjects/Topics:

Raise The (Minimum) Wage: Launched by Michigan United, this ballot initiative strives to gradually raise the minimum wage in the state of Michigan from $7.40/hr to $10.10/hr by 2017. This will also raise the minimum rate for tipped employees 85 cents per year until it reaches parity with the regular minimum wage. The current minimum rate for tipped employees is $2.65/hr. If successful, this initiative could potentially increase the wage of over 1,000,000 people and pull over 350,000 people out of poverty. The WCAT is partnering with Michigan United on this campaign.

D15: Good Jobs Now is also working towards raising the minimum wage within the corporate, fast food sector to $15/hr. The idea is that these fat-cat corporations have the money to pay their workers a living wage, and they ought to. If done right, it’s possible to raise the wage without all of the negative repercussions traditional economists theorize. Good Jobs Now has focused most of their work in Detroit, though they are looking to expand their efforts out to Washtenaw County. Their main focus is D15 right now, though they have done a ton of other work as well and will gladly share all of this at the conference on Wednesday.

AAATA Millage Increase: With the slogan “More Buses, More Places, More Often,” WeROC recently jump-started their own ballot initiative to increase the millage for the Ann Arbor Transit Authority (public transportation). This means that, with a slight tax increase, the AAATA will reach more areas in Ypsilanti, Ypsilanti Township, and Ann Arbor more often. WeROC will come ready with a diagram that shows all of the additions to be made. Not only will this increase the number of jobs in these areas, but it will also get people to their jobs faster and more efficiently. It is for this very reason we included them in this conference; this is definitely a working interest.

Ban the Box: WeROC will also discuss issues surrounding the Ban the Box Campaign. Ban the Box is an initiative to remove the criminal history question from the application-stage to give returning citizens a fair chance at employment. Many other organizations have been tackling this issue, but at this conference you will get to hear WeROC’s unique experience in this field.

Working America: Working America is a national labor organization that aims to educate, assist, and mobilize working Americans to improve their working conditions, job security, and health care. The WCAT is a local hub for Working America where people can come every two weeks to talk about their working challenges – or challenges they’ve heard – and possible responses to take. The goal is to run a number of campaigns, like the Raise the Wage Campaign, that consistently fight for the integrity, equality, and protection of the working people.

We hope to see everyone there. Bring a friend! The more the merrier, there’s a lot to talk about.

Good Jobs For All Conference (University of Michigan)