Bethesda, MD — Today, janitors who clean and maintain the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and the Uniformed Services University protested their employer’s failure to pay workers for two weeks of wages. Escab Enterprises, a federal cleaning contractor that has received over $40 million in taxpayer money since 2008, failed to pay nearly 300 janitors who earn just $13.97 per hour, on November 9, 2012, the workers regular pay day. Escab urged janitors to come to work even without pay that workers rely on to support their families and pay their bills.
“The Federal government has a responsibility to ensure that the vendors that it hires treat their workers fairly,” said Maryland Lieutenant Governor, Anthony Brown. “These men and women do an honest day’s work and deserve to be paid accordingly. I urge all parties involved to resolve this matter quickly.”
There is no dispute over whether these workers deserve to be paid. Escab failed to pay any of the workers on November 9th, their regularly scheduled payday. Workers, who have been urged to file individual complaints with the DOL are reluctant to strike in order to best protect the health and safety of the patients.
“Too many companies like Escab try to get away with unfair and illegal practices that hurt working families, until pressure from the media and elected officials forces them to do right by workers,” said Kathy Howell, Capital Area District Director for 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union. “We must continue fighting to ensure that irresponsible contractors like Escab do not receive taxpayer money.”
A Department of Labor complaint charges that Escab has failed to pay over 300 workers at the Walter Reed National Naval Medical Center, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU), and the Internal Revenue Service. Escab is required by law to pay their employees. Additional requests filed on Monday include a request to Walter Reed to withhold payment from Escab and LAE Joint Enterprise (the prime contractor at NMC), a request to the Uniformed Services University contracting officers to withhold payment from Escab, a request to the IRS to withhold payment from Escab, and an amended DOL complaint asking that the DOL direct the government to withhold payment from Escab and LAE.
A new request filed today with the GSA asks the agency to investigate whether Escab workers at an FBI warehouse have been paid, and requests that money be withheld from this contract to pay the workers. A second complaint asks the Regional Director of the NE Region of the DOL Wage and Hour division to direct the government to withhold money from Escab, to pay both the workers and penalties and ensure that there’s enough money to pay the workers at their future pay periods.
Government and elected officials quickly intervened to ensure Escab paid these workers. However, workers still must go to their banks to see if the checks will be good. Escab will still need to pay workers twice in November, which is why the union is continuing to ask that the government withhold money from Escab and directly pay employees their wages and repay the dues to the employees that Escab has checked off but failed to remit, and to pay all the health and welfare money owed directly to the employees’ union funds.
With more than 120,000 members in nine states, including 16,000 in the D.C. Metropolitan Area, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.