What does Gingrich have against janitors?

Whether you are following the debates or not, you're likely familiar with the splattering of comments from Newt Gingrich pertaining to custodial work in schools. 

Back in November, we reported on some of Gingrich's first comments in a speech he made at Harvard School of Government. In that speech, he stressed his frustrations with child labor laws, saying the laws entrap impoverished children further into destitution. His solution was that "schools ought to get rid of the unionized janitors, have one master janitor and pay local students to take care of the school. The kids would actually do work, they would have cash, they would have pride in the schools, they'd begin the process of rising."

Not a surprise, Gingrich received a cold response to his comments and many in our industry were outraged. But, that didn't slow him down. Gingrich obviously stands behind his statements because he continues to press the issue. 

During the GOP debate earlier this week in New York City, Gingrich was put on the spot when asked about his previous comments regarding janitorial work. To defend himself, he placed blame on the unions, saying they are the reason janitors make "an absurd amount of money." (I am sure he'd be pressed to find any custodial worker who agreed with his opinion on what constitutes an absurd amount of money.)

When asked if he realized that his comments were insulting, he replied flatly, "No, I don't." He went on to say, "New York City pays their janitors an absurd amount of money because of the union. You could take one janitor and hire 30 some kids to work in the school for the price of one janitor, and those 30 kids would be a lot less likely to drop out."

I have a couple questions regarding the comments from Gingrich. Does he know the ins and outs of what a school custodian actually does? If he did, he would know that it isn't something any young kid could pick up here and there. And does Gingrich understand the correlation between cleanliness and health? Has he seen statistics on how health affects test scores and attendance in schools and what those numbers ultimately mean for funding to that school?

What are your thoughts on this?

1/20/12 - Just saw this video of three janitors giving their opinion on Gingrich's statements. Click here to watch.

  • My opinion:  Maybe we give him a bowl brush, mop, bucket and a restroom and ask him to reevaluate his opinions.

  • I don't think he means to have kids strip floors, clean carpet, etc. The tasks could include dust mopping hallways, emptying wastebaskets and other routine, nonhazardous chores. I think it a fine idea for kids to contribute to the upkeep of their school, whether paid or unpaid. It helps build a sense of belonging and sets the stage for participating in the community as adults. We are getting to be a society where we expect everything to be done for us at government expense.

  • I started doing the high school I attended. I was 15. $2.65 per hour. In the glorious PRE-SEIU days. I turned what I learned for 4 hours a day after school and full time Summers into positions with the leading commercial cleaning contractors in my metro area. With the technical and management experience I learned, I started my own company. That was 23 years ago. I agree 100% with the Speaker. Union janitors ARE overpaid & underworked. I can speak from experience. I personally helped beat back 2 early SEIU elections and am damn proud of it. I have done every type of cleaning imaginable, and many you probably can't imagine. I earned the RBSM designation from the BSCAI over 20 years ago. newt has a point, and it should be taken into consideration.