Classified Lawrence School District staff and supporters rally in support of $15 an hour starting minimum wage | News, Sports, Jobs

picture by: Rochelle Valverde

Tatyana Younger, right, District Paraeducator and Executive Vice President of PAL-CWA, leads those gathered in song as part of a rally at District Offices, 110 McDonald Drive., May 16, 2022.

More than 50 classified Lawrence School District staff and members of the community gathered Monday for a rally in support of raising the minimum wage for these workers to $15 an hour.

The school district began contract negotiations Feb. 21 with the Personnel Association of Lawrence-Communication Workers of America, Local 6400, which represents paraeducators, custodial workers, food service workers, clerical staff and other employees in the district. PAL-CWA held the rally ahead of its bargaining session with the district Monday evening at the district offices, 110 McDonald Drive.

Tatyana Younger, district paraeducator and executive vice president of PAL-CWA, led those gathered in chants, at one point calling out through a megaphone, “What do we want? and the group answering “A living wage” then “When do we want it? and the group responds “Now”.

PAL-CWA President Hannah Allison-Natale said those gathered included members of the PAL-CWA union, members of other local unions, as well as parents and certified staff. Allison-Natale said community support for the union’s push for $15 for all district staff continues to grow.

“I think people care deeply about the people who take care of their children,” Allison-Natale said.

picture by: Rochelle Valverde

More than 50 people gathered at the district offices, 110 McDonald Dr, on May 16, 2022, to support a proposal to raise the minimum wage for classified personnel in the district to $15 per hour.

In a statement Monday, PAL-CWA said there were 400 custodial workers, food service workers, paraeducators, secretaries and other classified personnel in the district who earned less than $15 an hour. Of these, about 300 of these workers earn between $11 and $13 per hour.

The Lawrence School Board recently approved $6.4 million in budget cuts, including some reductions intended to free up funds for increases for certified and classified staff. Specifically, the district estimates that $3.62-4.27 million is needed to fill a budget shortfall, primarily due to declining enrollment, and the remaining funding can be used to help fund staff increases. Contract negotiations between the district and the certified staff union, the Lawrence Education Association, are also ongoing.

School board member Kelly Jones, one of the board’s representatives in the negotiations, did not immediately respond to an email from the Journal-World on Monday asking if she had a comment regarding the union’s pay proposal, but told the newspaper in an email last month that she complied with the request.

“I respect the (PAL-CWA) demands for salary increases and the board strives to honor this, even under difficult budgetary circumstances,” Jones wrote.

Allison-Natale said the district has yet to make a counter offer on salaries, but one is expected soon. After Monday’s session, the next trading session is scheduled for June 1st.