CHICAGO, IL – Althea McCaskill has been a bus aide with Chicago Public Schools for 10 years and makes about $16,000 a year. No matter how long her 22-mile route from the first student pick-up at 108th Street to Disney Magnet Elementary School in Uptown takes, she is paid for four hours.

She rises at 4 a.m. to make it to her school bus by 5:30 a.m. Her work pauses during school hours, but the break from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. isn’t enough time for other part-time work, and she has gone two years without a raise, she said.

McCaskill and 7,500 members of SEIU Local 73 have been on strike from their jobs at CPS since Thursday when teachers also walked out.

SEIU, which represents CPS bus aides, custodians, classroom assistants, and security officers, is asking for pay increases that would bring its lowest-paid workers above poverty level, better defining duties of special education classroom assistants, an end to outside management of custodians by Sodexo and Aramark, and benefits like a paid Christmas break.

The city has offered support workers the same deal it has proposed for teachers: a 16% raise over a five-year contract, additional raises for low-wage custodians and classroom assistants and more paid time off for bus aides.