News from the Detroit Federation of Paraprofessionals, AFT 2350 and the Detroit Association of Educational Office Employees, AFT 4168
September 1, 2020
Contact: Sam Inglot, 616-916-0574, firstname.lastname@example.org
Detroit Public Schools Support Staff Demand Fair Treatment as School Year Begins
As students return, DPS employees demand protections against COVID-19
DETROIT – The Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) support staff are demanding that Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti respects the staff’s basic humanity and health. The district’s administration refuses to offer support staff the same safety and health provisions they agreed to with teachers. DPSCD paraprofessionals, food service workers and office employees refuse to be treated as second class citizens.
“The lives of secretaries, paraprofessionals, food service workers, and other support staff are just as important as other employees that work for DPS, but Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti doesn’t appear to agree,” said Donna Jackson, president of the Detroit Federation of Paraprofessionals. “Forcing staff back into school buildings and treating us as second-class citizens indicates that the district administration does not value who we are and what we do. Our members always go above and beyond for our students and the school community and our demands mirror our dedication. We want to work, but we want to do it safely.”
“As the collective bargaining unit for the clerical and office staff for DPSCD we have faced many obstacles with the district during this pandemic. We are facing yet another new hurdle with the district as the district plans to reopen: Not allowing our members choice,” said Stephanie Carreker, president of the Detroit Association of Educational Office Employees. The district feels that our work is a necessary function and yet, they’re treating us like we’re expendable. We have members who have health issues or are taking care of elderly parents who have fears about the return of staff and students into buildings. It has been proven that our jobs can be done remotely, which we did for three months, and it’s critical that the district give our members a choice on how they return to work.”
While teachers won the choice to work remotely amidst the pandemic, support staff – represented by the Detroit Federation of Paraprofessionals and the Detroit Association of Educational Office Employees – have not been given the same option. Paraprofessionals and office employees, like teachers work, was done on-line last Spring and can be done on-line this school year.
Moreover, while the district agreed that teachers who test positive use COVID days rather than their regular sick days, the district wants support staff to use their regular sick days. If they do not have any, they are home without pay. And because many of these support staff work directly with students, the hazard pay should be the same as what was offered to teachers.
The Detroit Federation of Paraprofessionals will go to the bargaining table with the administration on Wednesday, September 2. DAEOE returns to the table on September 2 and 4. The unions will demand the same protections teachers at DPSCD won, including the right to choose whether to work in-person or remotely and guaranteed paid sick leave if they contract COVID-19. Additionally, those who choose to work in-person should earn hazard pay equal to that of teachers and, like teachers, have the option to bring their school-age children with them to work if needed.