About 70 janitorial workers from the Fort Belvoir military base have gone on strike, prompting both a local union and U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-Dist. 8) to seek action on their behalf.
The workers are employed at the military base through a contract held by contractors Brown & Pipkins/Acsential of Atlanta, Ga. They allege that Brown & Pipkins refuses to bargain a contract in good faith with their union, 32BJ SEIU. Workers began striking on Tuesday morning, and remained in negotiations as of Thursday afternoon, according to Brown & Pipkins.
“Nobody wants to strike, but these men and women are willing to do what’s necessary to support their families,” said 32BJ SEIU Vice President and Capital Area Director, Jaime Contreras.
Rep. Moran has written a letter to Fort Belvoir Commander Col. Michelle D. Mitchell, asking her to rectify the situation.
The janitors at Fort Belvoir originally went on strike in February 2013 after filing wage and hour complaints against Brown & Pipkins with the U.S. Department of Labor. Following that original strike, Brown & Pipkins settled claims that it owed nearly $300,000 in wages and benefits to the janitorial workers. According to 32BJ SEIU, while Brown & Pipkins eventually settled that first contract, the company is again refusing to bargain fairly on a successor.
“I was disappointed to learn that contracted janitors at Fort Belvoir have voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike in response to federal labor charges against their employer, Brown & Pipkins, who are once again refusing to bargain a contract in good faith,” wrote Moran in his letter.
According to Brown & Pipkins CEO Deidre Brown, current negotiations between the union and the contractor are currently bogged down over two issues: workers demanding that a union representative be the one authorized to present worker grievances rather than a company shop steward and demands that drivers of corporate vehicles be given additional pay.
A 32BJ SEIU spokeswoman declined to comment on whether she agreed those two issues were holding up the negotiations.
“We don’t bargain contracts through the media so I can’t comment on specifics during the process,” said Regional Communications Manager Julie Karant.
Brown said the contractor’s latest offer to the workers includes a 4 percent wage increase, and a 3.5 percent increase each subsequent year. Janitorial workers currently making $15.01 per hour would receive $15.60; and those making $16.01 per hour would receive $16.60, according to Brown.
In addition, Brown said the contractor said it is offering to pay a 21 percent increase in workers benefits coverage.
“We believe the wages in the agreement are fair. And we are still in discussions with the union,” Brown said Thursday.