Newt Gingrich’s jab is pure trash, city janitors are hardly overpaid, says president of New York custodial workers union

AN ANGRY union leader says Newt Gingrich’s proposal to replace school janitors with broom-pushing students belongs in the dustbin of history.

The Georgia Republican’s declaration that the unionized cleaners make “an absurd” amount of money was dismissed Tuesday as malarkey.

“The 5,000 men and women who keep new York City public schools clean are paid no more than $37,000 a year in the most expensive city in the country,” shot back Hector Figueroa, secretary treasurer of Local 32BJ.

“To say these jobs pay too much or should be given to kids is not just a slap in the face of hardworking Americans struggling to make ends meet on povertylike wages.

“(It’s) an affront to any fair-minded person concerned about our schools, kids and the plight of millions of working families across our country.”

Gingrich lashed out at the janitors during Monday’s GOP primary debate in South Carolina, claiming the city could put 30 kids on the payroll for the price of one professional cleaner.

“They would actually have money in their pocket. they would learn to show up for work,” he said.

He noted that his daughter’s first job was cleaning up at a church when she was 13.

Figueroa said the example smacked of ignorance and “shows how disconnected he is from the things that actual workers do.”

“He thinks that cleaning the school is about cleaning the desks and throwing out the garbage,” he said.

“It also deals with . . . keeping children from the threat of H1N1 (swine flu) virus. There’s a real responsibility — not something you do as a kid on the side.”

Perhaps Gingrich confused them with custodians, who can make up to $114,000 but are in charge of managing a school’s physical plant, creating a budget and hiring and firing maintenance workers.

Local 891, the union that represents the custodians and has fought privatization of school-cleaning contracts, had no comment on Gingrich’s swipe.

with Rachel Monahan

lcolangelo@nydailynews.com

Newt Gingrich’s jab is pure trash, city janitors are hardly overpaid, says president of New York custodial workers union


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