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Custodians Working In Durham Public Schools To Get 'Back Pay'

DPS Custodians
Leoneda Inge

Dozens of Durham Public Schools custodial workers rallied outside school district offices Friday, hoping they’ll get their back wages soon. Workers carried signs reading, "DPS, Clean This Up!"

More than 140 custodians at big schools like Jordan and Hillside High Schools are still due two paychecks that were supposed to come before the holidays.

Durham Public Schools contracts out custodial services.  But when sub-contractor, Integrity Facilities Management filed for bankruptcy, workers were not paid.  

Denise Wiggins has worked at Hillside New Tech High School for four years.  She says the "wage theft" cut into her savings.

'Now I have to sit back and wonder day to day, how my needs are going to be met.'

“And that check they took from us in November, two paychecks, that would have put me past my mark that I needed to be in March," said Wiggins.   "Now I have to sit back and wonder day to day, how my needs are going to be met.”

And Wiggins says her co-workers are struggling too.

“One of my co-workers, they lost their car. You know how creditors are, you make an agreement, you make a date arrangement, then that date comes and you find out you don’t get a paycheck,” said Wiggins.

DPS Superintendent Bert L’Homme says the district is working to pay the custodians as soon as possible. He says the school board is expected to approve a $200,000 payment package for custodians at Monday special meeting.

“We fully expected that between Integrity and the bankruptcy court, they were going to do right by their employees who work in our schools.  But they have not, and it’s been too long," said L'Homme.

L’Homme says they will go to bankruptcy court to try to recoup the lost money.  Most of the former "Integrity" workers now work for sub-contractor "Premiere."

Leoneda Inge is WUNC’s race and southern culture reporter, the first public radio journalist in the South to hold such a position. She also is co-host of the podcast Tested and host of the special podcast series, PAULI. Leoneda is the recipient of numerous awards from AP, RTDNA and NABJ. She’s been a reporting fellow in Berlin and Tokyo. You can follow her on Twitter @LeonedaInge.
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