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Public Employee Press: PEP Talk

Union leaders press for DOE kitchen upgrades

Photos: James McCray/Hy-Sync Media

In an ongoing effort to protect members during the COVID-19 pandemic, Board of Education Local 372 President Shaun D. Francois I visited essential workers to address the outstanding issue of substandard ventilation systems in public school kitchens across New York City in October.

In August, Francois met with Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza after kitchen temperatures topped 135 degrees. Essential workers in Local 372 stayed on the job. Meetings between union and city officials on ventilation problems exacerbated by COVID-19 delayed school openings for the city’s 1.1 million students.

DC 37 Executive Director Henry A. Garrido joined Francois in October’s visit and met kitchen workers, Crossing Guards, School Aides, Parent Coordinators, Family Workers and SAPIS drug prevention counselors to hear their concerns around schools re-opening, new Department of Education regulations during COVID-19, and other worksite safety issues.

“No issue is too small, and none are too big for us to handle!” Francois told members.

“The union remains vigilant on this urgent ventilation issue and will keep the pressure on DOE and City Hall, especially since the city’s capacity to address it already exists,” Garrido said.

Donald Nesbit, executive vice president of Local 372 said, “The members of Local 1740 at the School Construction Authority are conducting ventilation testing in NYC schools and kitchens have been included in the testing. The testing is being done citywide in order to ensure workers’ safety.”

In August, Francois and Local 372 leaders held a press conference with city lawmakers to expose unbearable temperatures that created illegal work conditions in school kitchens. It was reported on in PEP talk, the New York Times, The Daily News and other media.

In November, Mayor de Blasio told DOE to prepare for a possible citywide shutdown of schools again as the spread of coronavirus infections in New York City grew closer to 3%. DOE may shift its entire body of 1.1 million students to remote learning to halt this second wave of COVID-19 cases.

In October, NYC Health+Hospitals Contact Tracers in Local 768 pinpointed a resurgence of coronavirus outbreaks that led to school shutdowns in red zones in parts of Brooklyn and Queens.

“Throughout the pandemic and the ongoing ventilation crises, Local 372 members, like thousands of other dedicated and essential workers, remain on the frontlines preparing meals to feed hungry children and adults,” said Francois, who also is president of DC 37. “We continue providing the vital services New Yorkers and their families need.”