USD 497 workers push for higher wages during afternoon picket

Classified employees say wages and working conditions need to improve in school district


Maison Flory

Workers protested outside of LHS on Thursday afternoon as they push for higher pay and improved working conditions.

By Jonas Lord and Sama Abughalia

Food service workers, paras, library and media assistants, secretaries, custodians, and other hourly staff came together for a PAL-CWA picket today, aiming to alert the community of their fight for better pay and workplace conditions.

Many said that hourly wages, which range from to $10.91-$13.50 per hour for many workers, aren’t enough compensation for the work they do and fall far short of a living wage in Douglas County. PAL-CWA (Personnel Association of Lawrence – Communication Workers of America) bargains on behalf of hourly workers in the district.

Freshman Alex Johnson joined in the picket out of sympathy with food service workers. 

“I feel like they’re getting forgotten by USD 497,” Johnson said. “I am out here and doing what’s right because I don’t think people realize LHS staff in the kitchen work really hard for a lot of students.”

This feeling of underappreciation was exacerbated when one driver threw food at the picketers and drove off in a flurry thinking that the workers were striking. They weren’t.

East Heights paraeducator Tatiana Younger said  this behavior could’ve possibly originated from some sort of resentment.

“I think that a lot of folks don’t stand up for their own rights at work, so it can be really hard for them to see other people stand up for what they believe in,” she said. 

However, the incident didn’t distract Younger from the mission at hand.

“It’s just us coming out and sharing information with our community,” she said. “We think that oftentimes the only ways that people hear about whatever’s happening at schools is the school board or the admin and not everyone is tapped into those spaces, and we think that it’s a community effort to fix a lot of these problems.”

Kennedy Early Childhood Center kitchen manager Melissa Browning has a similar point of view.

“We’re just making people aware of how hard it is for us to feed our families on the wages that they give us,” she said. “We work our butts off.”