When his mother was fired from her job as a custodian for Durham Public Schools, the responsibility to provide for the family fell on 17-year-old Angel Juarez’s shoulders.
Juarez, a junior at Jordan High School, got a job at McDonald’s. He said he earns between $100 and $220 a week, which he then stretches to provide for his mother and three siblings.
“We’re basically living paycheck to paycheck,” he said. His grades have slipped because he “just can’t concentrate, worrying about stuff.”
Some things have had to go. His younger brother’s medication for his thyroid condition is one of them, and he has begun to lose some hair.
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Juarez’s mother was among several dozen workers who gathered in front of DPS headquarters Friday to protest, once again, 22 days of unpaid labor last year. Her children were with her.
A larger group demonstrated last month. Since then, most of the 140 custodial workers who were initially fired after their employer went broke have been paid and rehired.
But about 40 workers who are illegal immigrants have not been paid or rehired, the protesters said.
“They felt discriminated (against) because they put them aside. They paid everybody else, but they didn’t pay them,” Angel Juarez said. Although the four children are legal U.S. residents, their mother isn’t.
Durham Public Schools contracts for custodial services with Service Solutions, which subcontracted with Integrity Custodial Services. Integrity filed for bankruptcy last year and did not pay the workers from mid-October through the beginning of November.
The workers were also laid off by Integrity in November. Most were rehired by a new company, Premiere.
The Durham school board voted to pay the workers and then seek repayment from Integrity in bankruptcy court. Last week, the school system announced that Service Solutions had picked up the bill and DPS was no longer responsible for the approximately $100,000 bill.
DPS said Friday it had been informed earlier that some of the workers remained unpaid.
“We understand that some former Integrity employees did not make it on the payroll of either Service Solutions (or) Premiere. We have been assured that those employees can visit Premiere’s office (which is at the same location as Integrity’s office) and pick up their wages there today,” a DPS statement said.
Service Solutions echoed DPS, saying the delay had been caused because the workers’ information had not been in Integrity’s system.
In a statement, the company said employees waiting for back pay should meet at the Premiere office at 3 p.m. Friday to be paid.
“After a delay in receiving proper information missing in insolvent subcontractor Integrity’s system, many former-Integrity employees working at Durham Public Schools will receive their pay from new subcontractor Premier. SSC Service Solutions will reimburse Premier and is grateful to Premiere for their assistance,” Service Solutions wrote.