A union representing some 2,000 School District of Philadelphia employees voted to authorize a strike on Saturday, just over a week before classes start, the union announced in a news release.

32BJ SEIU, the union, has voted to strike if he doesn’t have a new contract by Aug. 31, the date his current contract expires, the union said.

The union is calling for higher wages and adequate training programs, calling the terms of the current contract “unacceptable.”

John Bynum, the union’s assistant district leader, said the school district has not trained its teachers to de-escalate serious situations in schools, including active shooter training.

“The School District of Philadelphia needs to respect us, protect us and pay us living wages. Bus drivers, cleaners and those who kept our schools open during the pandemic were called essential, now is the time for that to be reflected in a fair contract for the workers of the School District of Philadelphia,” said Bynum.

Larisa Shambaugh, director of talent for the School District of Philadelphia, said she is hopeful they can come to a fair contract that “values ​​and supports our employees.”

“We deeply appreciate the work of our staff who are represented by 32BJ SEIU District 1201,” Shambaugh said in a statement. “We continue to actively engage in discussions and negotiations to secure a new contract as soon as possible, without interrupting in-person learning to begin the 2022-2023 school year.”

Employees included in the contract are primarily bus drivers, bus attendants, bus mechanics, building cleaners, construction engineers, and trades workers.

The workers agreed to wage cuts and mandatory weekly contributions from their salary to help fund the school district budget, keep children in school and prevent thousands from unemployment due to school closures, according to the union news release.

“SEIU 32BJ members have demonstrated their commitment to the Philadelphia Public Schools during the financial crisis and global pandemic. They are simply asking for a salary and training that honors their commitment to PSD and is in line with other unionized workers throughout the city of Philadelphia,” the press release says.

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