A cleaning services contractor based in Merrifield is undergoing an audit ordered by George Mason University in response to allegations of labor law violations.
In recent months, LT Services Inc. (2815 Hartland Rd.) and its subcontractors have faced numerous complaints by workers who say they have experienced poor working conditions, including delayed payments and retaliation for engaging in union activities.
GMU President Gregory Washington announced on Feb. 22 that, after conducting an initial review of the complaints against LT Services, which provides janitorial services at the university’s 220 buildings in Northern Virginia, he has ordered an outside audit of the contractor by the accounting firm Baker Tilly.
“George Mason University values everyone who works on our campuses, whether they are faculty, classified staff, student employees, or contractors. We hold high standards toward the treatment of everyone,” Washington said. “…I look forward to learning the results of what I expect will be a thorough, fair, and thoughtful audit.”
Washington added that Mason would not “offer any further public comment” until the audit is completed “in order to be fair to all involved.” A GMU spokesperson reiterated that sentiment, telling Tysons Reporter that Washington’s statement would be the university’s “only comment” on the issue.
LT Services declined to comment when contacted by Tysons Reporter.
While Mason’s audit is ongoing, the National Labor Relations Board is investigating LT Services and two of its subcontractors — Reyes Cleaning Contractors and Seth Ean Service — for allegedly engaging in unfair labor practices to shut down workers’ efforts to organize, according to documents provided by the Local 32BJ chapter of the Service Employees International Union, which filed the charges on March 9.
In its charging statement, SEIU states that LT Services promised workers at GMU a $2 raise and money to pay hospital bills in response to “protected concerted activities” and told a worker “to not discuss their working conditions with others.”
The charges against Reyes Cleaning accuse the company of interrogating employees and creating “more onerous working conditions” in retaliation for union-related activities. SEIU alleges that Seth Ean Service interrogated and intimidated workers, told them not to talk to union organizers, and disciplined a worker and reduced their pay for participating in union activities.
The three new cases come on the heels of two settlements won by SEIU on behalf of the contract cleaners at Mason. H&E Cleaning Service Inc., a subcontractor of LT Services, signed a settlement on Nov. 11 and again in January after the union accused the company of threatening and intimidating workers, sabatoging their work areas, and denying them compensation.
LT Services was also one of five companies required to pay back wages in 2016 after Montgomery County determined that they had violated its living wage laws.
SEIU expressed skepticism of the outside audit ordered by George Mason University, urging Washington to instead hire a new, responsible contractor immediately.
“Essential workers that keep Mason clean every day cannot wait for an audit to finish,” 32BJ SEIU said in a statement. “They have brought numerous allegations and violations against L.T. Services and their subcontractors to President Washington for nearly a year. President Washington cannot delay ensuring that these essential workers be treated with respect, especially in a global pandemic.”
Pressure on GMU to address concerns about the treatment of contract workers has been growing both internally and externally.
Several state elected officials, including Dels. Kathleen Murphy (D-McLean) and Mark Keam (D-Vienna), wrote a letter to Washington on March 15 urging the university to “ensure its contracted and subcontracted janitors, students, and broader community are kept safe and healthy during this pandemic by choosing to employ a responsible janitorial contractor.”
In addition, over 220 Mason faculty, staff, students, and alumni have signed a resolution from the American Association of University Professors’ GMU chapter expressing support for the janitors and calling for the adoption of a policy that would require contractors to give workers a living wage, benefits, and other rights.
“We don’t want to prejudge the audit, but we think that we already have enough information for what we think is the solution, and the solution is for Mason to adopt a responsible contractor policy,” GMU-AAUP interim president Tim Gibson, who teaches communications at Mason, said. “…If you want to contract with our institution, with our community, then you need to commit to treating your workers with fairness and respect.”
Along with forming a GMU Coalition for Workers’ Rights, GMU-AAUP joined SEIU for a “car caravan” protest at Mason’s Fairfax campus on Thursday (March 18).
“We hope the widespread outpouring of support for the janitors helps President Washington take seriously the trauma these essential workers have been through, while risking their lives to keep GMU safe,” 32BJ SEIU Vice President Jaime Contreras said. “Such an esteemed institution, focused on social justice, should simply hire responsible contractors. President Washington can and should utilize his power to ensure janitors a new employer that upholds the school’s values.”
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