While Ann Arbor’s teachers negotiate a proposed 4 percent pay cut, the district’s custodians quietly agreed to give up twice that much.

AFSCME negotiator DeAngelo Malcolm says he believes that “Everybody should take an equal hit.” But the union saw no choice but to swallow an 8 percent pay cut–#PAGEBREAK#plus a reduction in vacation days and a big hike in health care premiums. State law makes it easy to privatize non-instructional work, Malcolm explains, and the district already had a bid on the table to outsource cleaning and maintenance work to a private company.

“It’s pitiful,” schools trustee Susan Baskett sighs when asked about the unequal sacrifice. But, she points out, “it would have been worse on their behalf if we had privatized.” Though the pay was already crummy–new custodians started at $9.85 an hour–this way they at least get to keep their retirement plan.

Board secretary Glenn Nelson says trustees felt “sad” asking for so much from bottom-rung workers but were “trying to protect the classroom as much as possible.” Multiplied across the 173-member union, the givebacks will save the district about $1.8 million a year. While that’s less than 10 percent of the $20 million needed to balance next year’s budget, the custodians’ example will put pressure on teachers to make concessions, too.

School bus drivers are next in the crosshairs. If a proposed countywide consolidation goes through, all AAPS drivers and mechanics will lose their jobs. They could apply to work for the new provider, the Washtenaw Intermediate School District, but WISD expects pay to average just under $15 an hour–11 percent less than AAPS.