MSCS board votes against district, denying $34M cleaning contract with wage increase

LaBarbara Wilkins, left, and LaQuanta Lee both clean Memphis-Shelby County Schools buildings for Service Master Clean.  The district's board considered a contract Tuesday, May 31, 2022, that would make Service Master Clean the sole cleaning contractor and would require each employee be paid a minimum wage of $15 an hour.

She may not be a nurse, LaQuanta Lee told the Memphis-Shelby County School board, but she takes care of the kids at Cromwell Elementary School by keeping their classrooms and bathrooms clean.

“I feel like we deserve a raise,” Lee the board on Tuesday, which voted told down a new four-year cleaning contract that would have boosted worker pay. “…We might not go and save lives every day, but we also attend to the kids when they’re sick.”

In the district’s eyes, the vote, a 4-2 split against a new custodial contract, was a vote against raising wages for the district’s custodial workers. Cleaning contract votes have historically been the most contentious vote among a board that often votes in unity with district recommendations. Typically though, narrow votes go the way of the district.

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