A janitors’ union has tentatively reached a contract agreement with commercial cleaning companies in the D.C.-area — avoiding a strike that could have affected Tysons offices.
Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ struck an agreement with the Washington Service Contractors Association today (Tuesday, Oct. 15), according to a press release from 32BJ SEIU.
The janitors’ union was planning two strikes later this afternoon ahead of the approaching deadline for the new contract agreement.
The strike was meant to demand wage increases and full-time hours — some janitors currently earn $12.60 per hour for part-time work in Northern Virginia, according to the union.
In total, the strike would have hit more than 1,200 office buildings in D.C., Virginia and Maryland, according to the press release.
Union spokeswoman Julie Karant told Tysons Reporter that more than 4,000 janitors and 500 buildings in Northern Virginia would have been affected by a strike.
Some of the Tysons office buildings were the janitors work include:
- Capital One Tower (1600 and 1680 Capital One Drive)
- Freddie Mac building (8250 Jones Branch Drive)
- Northrop Grumman (7575 Colshire Drive)
- MITRE Corp. (7525 Colshire Drive)
The deal, which covers more than 10,500 jobs, is pending approval by union members, and the union plans to release more details on Monday, Oct. 20, “pending a ratification vote by union members,” the press release said.
“Associated Building Maintenance Co., Inc. remains the only employer out of 58 companies that has not signed the agreement,” according to 32BJ SEIU.
Janitors who are part of the Service Employees International Union, Local 32BJ protested K&S Management Services, a Vienna-based non-union cleaning contractor, yesterday (June 6) in Tysons.
With 75,000 commercial office cleaners’ contracts set to expire this year, Jaime Contreras, the vice president for 32BJ SEIU, told Tysons Reporter that the union will help with bargaining.
“Today we are focused on K&S, which is the largest non-union cleaning company in Virginia — also a company who is known to violate workers’ rights to organize on the job,” Contreras said. “They were found guilty by the National Labor Board of firing a worker for simply trying to organize on the job.”
That former K&S worker, Geofredo Castro, told the crowd in Spanish and with an English translator that he decided to organize his workers with 32BJ because “there were lots of injustices and they didn’t pay us a fair salary and we didn’t get almost any benefits.”
“I went to the K&S office to give them the petition that I signed with my coworkers but afterward, they fired me unfairly,” the translator said. “With the help of the union, last month we won our case against K&S, and they were obligated to pay me $1,500 for all of the labor violations they committed against our workers.”
32BJ SEIU filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, claiming that K&S was engaging in unfair labor practices, which included Castro’s firing. K&S settled in May.
In an unrelated incident, a K&S employee filed a sexual harassment claim in January against a supervisor at a worksite in D.C.
Julie Karant, a spokeswoman for the union, said that 32BJ SEIU hasn’t heard from K&S about the allegations and said that the company is under investigation by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for sexual harassment.
K&S said in an emailed statement to Tysons Reporter:
K&S respects its employees and their right to engage in concerted activity. However, as far as K&S is aware, no petition has been filed with the National Labor Relations Board to initiate the process for voting in which the employees are given the opportunity to participate in a free and fair election to determine if they want to be represented by the union. K&S has voluntarily agreed to take steps to ensure that the employees’ rights are protected.
K&S takes charges of sexual harassment seriously and strives to provide an environment that is safe and provides equal opportunities for all employees. We try to prevent sexual harassment, and if claims of harassment are made, we will investigate and take appropriate action. Beyond that, we cannot comment on specific charges filed by individual employees.
Around 4:30 p.m., the protesters shouted in English and Spanish “K&S, shame on you” and “When we fight, we win” as they made their way from 1800 Tysons Blvd to 1751 Pinnacle Drive — one of the Tysons buildings that K&S cleans.
Del. Ken Plum (D-36th District), who stood out with his orange shirt in a crowd of purple, told the protesters that he is fighting for “fair work, fair pay” in “the center of wealth in the United States.”
32BJSEIU filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, claiming that K&S was engaging in unfair labor practices.
Del. Ken Plum (D-36th District) and Dalia Palchik, a candidate for the Providence District seat on Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, plan to join the event, according to a 32BJ SEIU press release.
The rally starts at 4 p.m. at 1800 Tysons Blvd. The group will then march to 1751 Pinnacle Drive — one of the Tysons buildings that K&S cleans, the press release said.
“Janitors, who are marching in support of non-union K&S cleaners, will soon start negotiations for a new four-year union contract that expires at midnight on Oct. 15 covering 10,500 workers in the D.C. area, including over 4,000 in Northern Virginia,” according to the press release.
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