New York School custodial workers persevere in the midst of the pandemic

International Union of Operating Engineers Local 891 President and Business Manager Robert Troeller joined the America’s Work Force Union Podcast to discuss how his Union, which represents custodial engineers in the New York City Schools, managed the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

As the largest school system in the country, New York City Schools were one of the first school systems to reopen in the midst of COVID-19. It was a very stressful time for members of Local 891, but they managed to perform their jobs admirably and kept students, teachers and staff safe,Troeller said. 

In addition to their regular custodial duties, cleaning staff went the extra mile by regularly sanitizing and wiping surfaces, keeping track of maintenance of heating and ventilation equipment and ensuring every room was sanitized through a meticulous cleaning process. Many workers became sick and a few died, but overall the membership managed to persevere, Troeller said.

The worker shortage is likely the biggest problem facing the members of Local 891. Starting pay for a cleaner is barely above minimum wage with no benefits, and the jobs are often temporary. Leaders of Local 891 are pushing management for higher pay and better benefits to attract workers, but it continues to be a struggle, Troeller added.

Listen to the entire episode to learn more about these topics:


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