Chicago Public Schools’ decision to kick Aramark out of schools is a testament to our members’ advocacy, the concern of families and community partners, and the work of our union. We couldn’t have pushed for this without the phone calls, e-mails, photos and videos, and grievances that poured in from parents and our rank-and-file about conditions in their schools.
We are happy to finally see some light at the end of this filthy tunnel we’ve been forced to crawl through in dealing with Aramark’s shoddy work and neglect.
But that’s where the celebration ends.
We’re now left with a lame duck year in the middle of a global health pandemic that has taken nearly 100,000 U.S. lives, and almost 2,000 in our own city. Right now, cleanliness is everything, but in addition to its failure to supply cleaning supplies and proper janitorial services even as the COVID-19 crisis hit our schools, Aramark has an atrocious track record of negligence:
- Broken sinks and rotted ceilings at Kennedy High School.
- Broken toilets, and mice and roach infestation at Morrill Math and Science Elementary.
- Severe water damage and more mice at Swift Elementary (addressed only after filing grievance against Chicago Public Schools).
- Hazardous snow conditions at schools around the city.
- Massive rodent infestation at Mollison Elementary.
Millions in Overruns
CPS is now set to pay Aramark and Sodexo an additional $33 million in cost overruns due to COVID-19, but we contend these companies don’t deserve another red cent. There is no way the district should even consider keeping them on its payroll after years of jeopardizing the health and safety of students, educators and staff. Teachers have routinely been forced to clean their own classrooms because Aramark ignored critical needs, and left dirt and dust, rotting food and deplorable conditions in bathrooms and common areas.
This contract is ending only because parents, communities and our members fought for it to end. But it needs to end immediately—not a year from now—because COVID-19 is an immediate concern. This is yet another reason why we need an elected representative school board to end mayoral control of our schools.
Remember, even in the face of visual evidence, CPS denied every step of the way that there was an issue with school cleanliness, and will never give all of our schools the same service. So we will keep organizing and fighting, because we know that regardless of the circumstances, our district will shamefully still do whatever it can to cut costs.