I love my job. I’ve always wanted to work with children. In fact, I wanted to be a teacher in my country but for one reason or another it didn’t happen. God placed this opportunity before me to work with kids and I decided to go for it. As a custodian, I oversee cleaning. It’s very important that my work is done well so that the children feel comfortable. I remember when I was in elementary school and I needed to use the bathroom I would hold it in because there was no paper, the bathroom smelled bad, or it was dirty. These experiences motivate my work because I want the kids to feel comfortable and taken care of. This way they can study and find success.

Most of us who work at TAS also have children there. We want our children and the teachers at TAS to be happy. I often find myself acting as a therapist in the bathrooms. I am the first one who finds out when one of our students is pregnant because I’ve had to pick up the pregnancy tests. If one respects and inspires trust in a student, they will respect and trust you. That is the most gratifying part of my job being able to help the students and the teachers. But, it is difficult to continue with so much work and such little pay. Every day it is more and more clear that TAS does not appreciate our efforts nor our work.

There are simply not enough people to maintain a school with more than 100 bathrooms. There is no way to keep to a high standard of cleanliness in every place all the time. Aside from the heavy workload, in 15 years on the job, my raises amount to cents. I make $12.25. This is less than the city’s minimum wage because TAS advocated to be exempt from Los Angeles’ wage ordinance. How do I get by? Honestly, I don’t know. My money is parceled out exactly where it needs to go and with a single day I don’t work I’m profoundly affected. At TAS, we’re not paid for holidays. In fact, since the 4th of July I’m carrying a $200 debt I can’t get rid of but that’s how it goes most of the year. I have a full-time job, but I don’t make enough to live. How is that possible?

My three sons went to TAS. The older two are in college and my youngest, Angel, is in 8th grade. When I began to work at TAS I liked it because it was a very beautiful school with a family-friendly environment. They had yoga classes before math and music class for the elementary school students. That doesn’t exist anymore. A lot of the student programs have changed, and I’ve noticed its impact with Angel. Between 4th-5th grade, he had substitute teachers for extended periods. It was a constant rotation of teachers. All because of the same issues we’re facing. Teachers don’t last because they’re not paid their worth and they find other opportunities. It has been a struggle academically with Angel because of all these changes at TAS. It’s clear this lack of respect and fair wages affects students because it creates high staff turnover.

Dedicated education workers and parents of students at The Accelerated School (TAS) have been in contract negotiation for over a year with no progress. TAS employees are simply asking for fair wages that will allow us to raise our own children with dignity and ensure there is enough staff to provide the services students need. 

See pictures from October’s vigil.