Fort Belvoir, VA – Dozens of men and women who keep Fort Belvoir safe and clean walked off the job on strike today to protest numerous charges filed with the National Labor Relations Board. Workers, who have also filed a complaint with the Department of Labor, allege that Brown & Pipkins owes nearly $300,000 in wages and benefits. U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) is urging Fort Belvoir federal contractor Brown & Pipkins d/b/a Ascential to reach a fair contract for about 70 janitors at the base.
“I work very hard without complaints, all I ask is for a fair chance to get my job back,” said Dionicia Gomez, who was lost her only job cleaning Fort Belvoir. “It’s hard to get by as it is, but without a paycheck, I don’t know how I’ll support my family.”
Since September 1, 2012, Brown & Pipkins has allegedly failed to provide janitors with the full wages owed nor has it accounted for any of the money owed in contributions to the benefit funds on the workers behalf; the alleged amounts outstanding total nearly $300,000. Charges also allege that the company has disciplined two workers and terminated one for protected union activity. Brown & Pipkins fired five employees on February 1, nearly all of whom were over 40 years old.
Brown & Pipkins is also attempting to undermine future standards for the site by proposing wage reductions of over $2 per hour as well as dramatically reduced benefits including the elimination of janitors’ bereavement leave and pension.
“It’s unacceptable for federal contractors to shortchange janitors, who are some of the most vulnerable workers in our community,” said Rep. Moran. “I support these hard-working men and women in their effort to ensure a decent living for themselves and their families.” In a letter to Colonel Gregory D. Gadson, at Fort Belvoir, Moran urged the Garrison Commander to ensure the base hires a responsible cleaning contractor that follows the law and treats workers fairly.
Just two months ago, Escab Enterprises, a federal cleaning contractor, failed to pay nearly 300 janitors who clean and maintain the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and the Uniformed Services University. There was no dispute over whether these workers deserved to be paid. Escab finally paid janitors at Walter Reed after Navy commanders and elected officials in Maryland like Rep. Chris Van Hollen and Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown intervened and lent their support to the workers.
“Nobody wants to strike, but these hard-working janitors are willing to do what’s necessary to support their families,” said 32BJ SEIU Capital Area Director, Jaime Contreras.
With more than 125,000 members in nine states, including 17,000 in the D.C. Metropolitan Area, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.