Wrapped in thick coats and fighting for their cause, hundreds of Rockford Public School bus drivers, food service workers, and paraprofessionals braved the cold-demanding the school district meet their demands for a new contract.
“Stop paying us poverty wages,” said one kindergarten paraprofessional, Pamela Hillyer. “Respect us and give us dignity.”
The three unions are set to go on strike for the rest of the week.
It’s a move many say they don’t want to do, but feel is necessary.
“I love my job and I don’t want to do this to my kids and I never wanted to hurt the community by going on strike,” said Hillyer. “I know this is going to be hard for the parents to transport their children, I am one of them who’s going to be inconvenienced for the next three days, but this has to happen.”
The board says its given as much as it possibly can.
It says it tried to cover the workers’ increased health insurance coverage by giving them a raise.
It’s a move they say is fiscally responsible for their budget, as well as for the taxpayers.
But, protesters say that’s not enough.
“Just give us a fair living wage,” said paraprofessional Sandra Patlan. She’s worked for RPS for 16 years. “Not only for us as employees but also for our families. And also a decent insurance, to take care of ourselves and our kids because some of our kids are also students in the district.”
Workers say their passion to do the job is on display at this rally.
But, they also say passion doesn’t pay the bills.
“I love to go to work every day, and it’s not just me as many as you can see behind me,” said Patlan. “I mean, we have to love what we do in order to be here. It takes a special person to do what we do.”