(Updated at 6:30 p.m.) More than 250 people have signed a petition calling for Arlington County to provide retirement benefits and paid time off to year-round gymnastics program employees currently classified as “temporary” workers.
The petition says that only two out of 50 gymnastics staff members are classified as permanent employees, while the rest are considered temporary, “making it harder to recruit and retain qualified staff.”
“While a temporary classification is appropriate for staff who truly are temporary, we do not believe it is appropriate for those who work year-round coaching the team and teaching classes,” the petition says.
Both the Arlington Aerials Parents Association and Arlington Tigers Parents Association are supporting the petition.
“Gymnastics is a fully self-supporting program: the fees paid by those in the program fully offset its costs,” the petition notes. “All additional costs of fairly compensating the coaches would be absorbed within the gymnastics cost center, and borne by the families whose children participate in the program.”
The full text of the petition is below.
Arlington County’s Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) employs on average 50 staff members each session in its gymnastics program. Of these, only two are classified as permanent employees. The remainder is designated as temporary and denied the full package of benefits given to permanent County staff, making it harder to recruit and retain qualified staff. The Arlington Aerials Parents Association and Arlington Tigers Parents Association strongly believe the safety, well-being and success of the gymnastics program is a direct function of the program’s ability to attract and retain the best coaches.
While a temporary classification is appropriate for staff who truly are temporary, we do not believe it is appropriate for those who work year-round coaching the team and teaching classes. Many of these staff have been employed by the County for many years, and work year-round with few breaks in their schedule. Ten of the gymnastics staff have worked for the County for seven or more years. Yet because of their temporary designation they are ineligible to receive retirement benefits or paid vacation days or holidays. They also lack job security–unlike permanent staff, temporary employees can be terminated at any time, for any reason.
In the last year alone, three long-tenured staff have left their positions, citing among their primary reasons the lack of benefits. One of these staff members said: “I adored teaching gymnastics for Arlington, but couldn’t keep working a job that didn’t recognize my efforts. Being newly married I had to consider not only myself but my husband and our desires for a family one day. The need for benefits had to outweigh my love for the job. Not having the option of maternity leave or paid time off and not getting paid in the winter every day the County was closed became too costly.”
Hiring and replacing experienced coaching staff is not a simple matter–gymnastics is a demanding and highly technical sport, and staff must have experience to successfully and safely teach the sport. Staff must have in-depth knowledge of skills and techniques, and the ability to breakdown and teach progressions; an understanding of injury prevention and first aid; and skill working with youth. Advanced level and team coaches, in particular, need USA Gymnastics (USAG) certification to coach gymnasts and mentor lower- level coaches. Retaining highly qualified staff is mission critical for DPR in light of the significant enrollment in the gymnastics program, as well as the upcoming expansion of the Barcroft facility and accompanying increase in the number of gymnastics classes to meet the high demand for gymnastics instruction in the County. To remain competitive and successfully expand its gymnastics program, DPR needs to be in a strong position to attract and retain highly qualified staff.
Gymnastics is a fully self-supporting program: the fees paid by those in the program fully offset its costs. All additional costs of fairly compensating the coaches would be absorbed within the gymnastics cost center, and borne by the families whose children participate in the program. The changes could be phased in over time to allow for a more gradual escalation in fees.
Arlington County’s children have benefited greatly from DPR’s team of committed gymnastics staff. Over the years, they have taught our children persistence, flexibility, strength, discipline, and a love of the sport. We must ensure that this program is adequately staffed by well-qualified, fairly compensated employees who will be directly responsible for growing and sustaining an expanded and excellent gymnastics program. We urge the County to reclassify the Arlington County gymnastics coaches and instructors as permanent staff.
The union leading the charge, 32BJ SEIU, says that wheelchair attendants, skycaps, baggage handlers, checkpoint agents and cabin cleaners at the airports “earn as little as $6.75 an hour plus unreliable tips.”
The strike was authorized during a rally at National Airport today.
“The entire crowd marched for nearly a mile outside DCA to the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority headquarters to demand that the board ensure contractors pay their workers $15 an hour,” the union said in a press release. “The workers were part of a nationwide Fight for $15 day of disruption, including strikes and protests at 330 locations and at 20 major airports nationwide.”
— Bri Carter (@ABC7Bri) November 29, 2016
Among those participating in the rally were the workers, clergy, community groups and state delegate Alfonso Lopez.
“Given the vital role that airport workers play in keeping air travel running smoothly, safely, and on-time, it is disappointing that contracted workers at DCA are not paid a living wage for the critical work that they do,” Del. Lopez (D-Arlington) said in a statement. “In our nation’s capital, we can and should do better for those who help keep our economy moving. MWAA should act now to ensure that contractors are paid $15 an hour.”
Locally, the workers are employed by a private contractor, Huntleigh Corporation.
More from the press release:
“We work very hard to ensure that travelers have a safe and clean airport, but we are ready to go on strike to ensure we can provide for our families,” said Aynalem Lale, a wheelchair dispatcher at Dulles. “If I made $15 an hour, I wouldn’t have to work two jobs and would not have to sleep at the airport between jobs.” …
Four decades ago, every job in an airport was a good, family-sustaining one. Men and women worked directly for the major airlines, which paid a living wage, provided pensions and health care and respected Americans’ right to stick together in a union. That’s no longer the case. Today, most Americans who work at airports are nonunion and are employed by subcontractors that pay low wages, without any benefits. Their jobs now represent the failures of a political and economic system geared towards the wealthy few and corporate profits at any cost.
Between 2002 and 2012 outsourcing of baggage porter jobs more than tripled, from 25 percent to 84 percent, while average hourly real wages across both directly-hired and outsourced workers declined by 45 percent, to $10.60/hour from more than $19/hour. Average weekly wages in the airport operations industry did not keep up with inflation, but instead fell by 14 percent from 1991 to 2011.
America’s airports themselves are also a symbol of the concerted effort to erode the ability of working people to improve their jobs. President Reagan fired and permanently replaced 11,000 striking air traffic controllers in 1981, paving the way for a decades-long march by corporations and elected officials to systematically dismantle Americans’ right to join together on the job. By zeroing in on airports Nov. 29, worker-class families are looking to transform a symbol of their decline into a powerful show of their renewed force.
All told, the Fight for $15 has led to wage hikes for 22 million underpaid workers, including more than 10 million who are on their way to $15/hour, by convincing everyone from voters to politicians to corporations to raise pay. The movement was credited as one of the reasons median income jumped last year by the highest percentage since the 1960s.
Arcing Insulator at Rosslyn Metro — An electrical issue on the Metrorail tracks outside of the Rosslyn station caused delays on the Blue, Orange and Silver lines during this morning’s rush hour. The arcing insulator prompted single-tracking and a large fire department response. [WJLA]
Beyer to Shadow DCA Worker — Today, from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) is expected to “accompany contracted wheelchair agents to learn first-hand their role helping passengers with disabilities at Reagan National Airport.” The workers and their union, 32BJ SEIU, are fighting for a $15 per hour wage. Currently, they receive as little as $6 per hour plus “unreliable tips.”
Samsung Collecting Note 7 at DCA — Electronics manufacturer Samsung has set up a booth at Reagan National Airport to collect their now recalled and discontinued Galaxy Note 7 phones, which are banned from flights due to a propensity to randomly go up in flames. [Twitter]
I-395 HOT Lane Update — VDOT updated the Arlington County Board yesterday on its “managed HOV/toll lanes” project slated for I-395. County staff is currently studying traffic and noise impacts to Arlington and the project’s allocation of at least $15 million per year to transit along the corridor, which the county believes is insufficient. [Arlington County]
Tech Incubator Founder Moves to Arlington — Evan Burfield, the founder of D.C.-based tech incubator 1776, has moved to Arlington with his wife and one-year-old daughter. Burfield chose a $1.6 million home in the Aurora Highlands neighborhood outside of Crystal City, calling it “a great buy on an up-and-coming area.” 1776 has a location in Crystal City that Burfield said is performing well. [Washington Business Journal]
Police: Arlington Man Called Reporter the N-Word — An Arlington man, 21-year-old Brian Eybers, has been arrested in Charleston, South Carolina on disorderly conduct and drug-related charges. A local TV reporter in Charleston says Eybers called him the N-word and then stood in front of his news van, blocking it from leaving. [The State]
Court Judgment Against Fmr. Johnny Rockets Owner — The owner of the former Johnny Rockets diner in Pentagon City mall has been ordered to pay more than a half million dollars in back wages and damages to 55 servers. The servers worked at Johnny Rockets locations in Pentagon City and Union Station in D.C.; a Dept. of Labor lawsuit alleged they had to share tips with non-tipped employees and did not receive overtime for working more than 40 hours per week. [Patch]
Arlington GOP Still Supports Trump — In an email this week, the chair of the Arlington County Republican Committee said that the party continues “to strongly support Donald Trump for president,” despite joining with GOP leaders in denouncing Trump’s recorded 2005 remarks about women. [Blue Virginia]
Delta to Fly from DCA to LAX — Delta Air Lines has announced plans to start flying from Reagan National Airport to Los Angeles International Airport, starting April 24. Currently, American Airlines and Alaska Airlines fly the direct DCA to LAX route. [Patch]
Food Truck Party on the Pike — On Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Columbia Pike residents have organized a “food truck party” in the recycling center lot at the intersection of the Pike and Four Mile Run Drive. [Columbia Forest]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
The workers have faced eight months of delay in seeking a new contract with “modest” pay increases and a paid sick leave option, according to their union, the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA). The workers are employed by Davey Tree Expert Co. and Greenleaf Services Inc., which have contracts with the cemetery, LiUNA says.
The union issued the following press release this afternoon.
The men and women who care for the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery may strike the cemetery’s grounds-keeping contractor, following nearly eight months of delay in reaching a new contract agreement.
The 45 workers, members of Local 572 of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, are seeking three annual pay increases and the introduction of paid sick leave. The workers are jointly employed by Davey Tree Expert Co. and Greenleaf Services Inc.
“Members of our military have risked their lives to defend the rights and freedoms of our Constitution, including the freedom to join together in a union for common interests,” said Larry Doggette, Business Manager of Local 572 and a veteran of the U.S. Marines. “It is disgraceful that these fundamental rights and freedoms would be denied at our nation’s military cemetery during a holiday in honor of those have lost their lives in defense of freedom.”
In May 2015, the workers voted in favor of joining together in the union to negotiate for better wages and working conditions. The workers are seeking a boost from their approximately $13 per hour pay rate. They are also seeking sick leave; currently workers have no paid sick leave.
The union and the companies reached an agreement this year on most non-economic issues, and workers presented their pay and sick leave proposal in October 2015. The employers had promised a response, but repeatedly delayed and cancelled the last negotiating session scheduled for this month.
Under a recent executive order by President Obama, up to seven days of sick leave will be required by federal contractors in 2017. However, rather than enshrining the sick leave in a contract, the employers proposed that sick leave be consistent with the order.
“It may be that they are running out the clock, hoping for new president who might rescind the executive order,” Doggette said. “But workers voted for a union, they want a contract and their rights to one should be respected.” Doggette added, “We believe we could easily reach an agreement if the employers would negotiate.” Doggette said that any strike would likely begin before the Memorial Day holiday, and absent an agreement, continue through it.
LIUNA’s Mid-Atlantic Region includes more than 40,000 workers predominantly in the construction industry in Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, the District of Columbia, Virginia and North Carolina.
Flickr pool photo by Jeff Reardon
Elementary School’s Satellite Launches — A “CubeSat” satellite built by students at St. Thomas More Cathedral School in Arlington was launched from the International Space Station yesterday. It’s the first time an elementary school CubeSat has been deployed into space. [CBS News, The Register, Twitter]
ConnectArlington Program Makes New Connection — Arlington County’s ConnectArlington fiber optic network is getting access to a collaborative research network of universities, industries and government agencies via the University of Maryland’s Mid-Atlantic Crossroads access point. The move is expected to help with economic development in Arlington. [Arlington County]
Shirlington Restaurant Investigated — The U.S. Dept. of Labor is reportedly investigating labor law violations at Aroma Indian Cuisine restaurant in Shirlington. [Patch]
Earlier: Airline service workers at Reagan National Airport are planning what’s being described as a first-ever strike starting tonight.
Contract wheelchair attendants, skycaps, baggage handlers, checkpoint agents and cabin cleaners are planning to join fellow airport workers in eight different cities in a 24-hour strike for better working conditions and a $15 per hour minimum wage.
“DCA’s contracted airport service workers are excluded from the airport’s living wage law and earn as little as $3.77 plus tips with few meaningful benefits,” the 32BJ SEIU labor union said, in a press release.
Workers will be striking in the B and C terminals of the airport, 32BJ SEIU said. On Wednesday, from 12:30-1:30 p.m., workers will hold a rally at Gravelly Point Park, near the airport.
Among those planning to address striking airport workers at the rally are Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-Arlington), SEIU President Mary Kay Henry and Rev. Graylan Hagle.
The action follows a protest by DCA airport workers in January that blocked traffic near the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in MLK Day.
After the jump, the full press release from 32BJ SEIU.
Photo via Facebook
Sun Gazette Endorses McMenamin — The Arlington Sun Gazette has endorsed independent County Board candidate Mike McMenamin. The newspaper says McMenamin is “by far the most seasoned and well-rounded candidate in the race.” [InsideNova]
Airport Workers Protest for Living Wage — Airport workers who make as little as $6.75 per hour held a protest at Reagan National Airport with the local 32BJ SEIU union on Wednesday. Among those attending the rally were wheelchair attendants, janitors, cabin cleaners and baggage handlers. The protest was part of a nationwide campaign for a $15 per hour minimum wage for airport workers. [Washington Post]
Candidate Night at Aurora Hills — The Aurora Highlands, Arlington Ridge and Crystal City civic associations are jointly sponsoring a candidates night for Arlington County Board hopefuls tonight. The forum will start at 7 p.m. at the Aurora Hills Community Center. Development, including the proposed redevelopment of the RiverHouse property in Pentagon City, is expected to be a hot topic. [ARCA]
Judy Blume Speaking in Arlington Tonight –Best-selling children’s and young adult novel author Judy Blume is speaking about her latest book at a free library-sponsored event in Arlington tonight. [ARLnow]
A Quick Note on Pageview Counts — As you might have noticed, we have eliminated pageview counts on most ARLnow articles. While this has been a feature for few years, recently it’s been buggy, slow to update and has frequently severely under-counted the actual number of views on an article. We’ll continue to show pageview counts to denote articles that are particularly “hot,” but take the numbers with a grain of salt.
Labor Protests in Rosslyn — Two labor unions, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Union Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, held separate protests near the Central Place development in Rosslyn yesterday. The unions were protesting the use of non-union labor, and used an inflatable rat and an inflatable “fat cat” to underscore their complaints. [Twitter, Twitter]
Boundary Channel Bike Path Plans — Conceptual plans for a new bike trail from Long Bridge Drive to the Mount Vernon Trail have been revealed. The trail is set to be built as part of the reconfiguration of the I-395 and Boundary Channel Drive interchange. [The Wash Cycle]
The Life and Times of Preston Caruthers — A brief biography of Preston Caruthers, the Arlington developer who built Dominion Towers, among others, and who at 88 still shows up daily at his Ballston office of his firm, Caruthers Properties LLC. [Falls Church News-Press]
Flickr pool photo by Airamangel
County transit contractor Forsythe Transportation has fired 35 ART bus drivers who went on strike to protest alleged sexual harassment and other grievances.
In a statement, Forsythe said the drivers were fired for violating a clause in their contract that prevented them from striking unless the company violated terms of an arbitration.
“We knew that this could happen, but we were surprised by the number of terminations,” Arlington County Transit Bureau Chief Stephen Del Giudice told ARLnow.com. “It’s a regrettable situation all the way around… It’s regrettable that drivers took the job action, and its regrettable that Forsythe felt the need to terminate the employees.”
Del Giudice said that the county was “not a party to the contract between Forsythe and its drivers” and therefore was limited in terms of what it could do to help resolve the conflict.
“It would be inappropriate for us to interfere in their labor relations,” he said.
The initial service disruption caused by the sudden strike last Monday was quickly resolved as Forsythe managers stepped in to handle the routes of striking drivers. The company then went on a hiring spree to fill the bus driver positions left vacant by the strike. Full service was restored by Friday, Del Giudice said.
One of the new drivers was involved in a minor accident yesterday, but Del Giudice said that the new hires are all licensed and experienced bus drivers who have been drug tested and “given training in Forsythe’s operating procedures and our [ART] routes.”
“We’re going to continue to insist on Forsythe providing the highest standard of safe and reliable service for our customers,” Del Giudice said.
Bomb Threat on DCA Flight — There were some tense moments at Reagan National Airport yesterday after a flight from Dayton, Ohio was sequestered and searched for explosives. Nothing was found, however. An individual who made a bomb threat at the Dayton airport ticket counter was taken into custody, the FBI said. [Bloomberg]
New Principals Named — Arlington Public Schools have named two new principals. Kenwyn Schaffner has been named the principal of Jamestown Elementary School and Bridget Loft has been named the principal of Swanson Middle School. “Ms. Loft was greeted by cheers and a standing ovation when she was introduced to the Swanson staff after the announcement of appointment,” an insider tells us. [Arlington Public Schools]
Rousselot Endorses Areizaga-Soto — Former Arlington County Democratic Committee Chair Peter Rousselot has endorsed Jaime Areizaga-Soto in his primary battle against Arlington County Board member Barbara Favola for state Senate. [JaimeForSenate.com]
ART Drivers File Human Rights Complaint — Striking Arlington Transit bus drivers have filed a complaint with the Arlington Human Rights Commission, claiming “ongoing sexual harassment from county contractor Forsythe Transportation.” [Washington Examiner]
Jogging With Grassley — Part-time Arlington resident Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) recently went jogging through his neighborhood with 15 young constituents who were in town for the Electric Cooperative Youth Tour. [ECT.coop]
Flickr pool photo by Christaki
In a statement on behalf of the rest of the board, Zimmerman said that the ART bus drivers’ concerns — about sexual harassment and the disciplining of a union leader — “need to be taken seriously.”
Here’s Zimmerman’s full statement.
Since Monday a dispute between the management of Forsythe Transportation, with whom Arlington contracts to operate the County’s ART bus service, and bus drivers represented by American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Local 3001, has resulted in service disruptions and a significant reduction of service on many ART routes. This situation is simply unacceptable.
Drivers have expressed concerns that need to be taken seriously, including allegations of sexual harassment, and the improper disciplining of a union representative. As this is a labor relations issue between a private company and its workers, Arlington County has no authority to intervene in this matter. However, we call on both parties to work together to resolve the issues and quickly restore full bus service for ART patrons. We urge both sides to utilize all available legal mechanisms to work toward resolution of the issues, including mediation services (such as the Northern Virginia Mediation Service affiliated with George Mason University).
It is critical to move expeditiously to resolve these issues and restore bus service at normal levels. We call for an immediate agreement between management and labor that will provide for the prompt restoration of service and an impartial investigation of worker’s concerns and a fair mediation of the matters in dispute.
Since its inception just over a decade ago, ART has been a steadily growing service, now carrying more than 2 million riders per year. It is increasingly important to the achievement of key goals of this community, including improving quality of life by offering more transportation choices, attaining a range of environmental objectives, reducing traffic congestion, and contributing to the vitality of business. It must continue to be reliable. The current dispute must be resolved, immediately.
Striking ART Drivers Fired — The Examiner’s Liz Essley reports that the Arlington Transit bus drivers who went on strike yesterday have been fired by Forsythe Transportation, the contractor that operates ART buses. The paper also reports that the labor dispute came to a head when Forsythe fired the head of the bus drivers union last week. ART buses are operating on a reduced frequency schedule today, with all routes in service except the 61B route. [Washington Examiner, Arlington Transit]
Airport Uniforms Found in Ballston — Three pairs of airport employee uniforms and a Washington Reagan Airport safety vest have been found in the bushes outside Carpool restaurant in Ballston (4000 Fairfax Drive). The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and Arlington police are investigating how the uniforms wound up there. [WJLA]
Arlington Mill Construction Contract Awarded — Construction on the new Arlington Mill Community Center is scheduled to begin in August, after the County Board awarded a $27.6 million construction contract for the project over the weekend. “Redeveloping the old Arlington Mill Community Center site into a mixed-used facility with a new community center, gymnasium, retail space and a parking garage is part of the County’s efforts to foster a vibrant, walkable urban village along Columbia Pike,” the county said in a press release. [Arlington County]
Goodbye, Hollywood Video — A shuttered Hollywood Video store and a small office building along Wilson Boulevard are set for demolition this month. The buildings are being razed to make way for a 191-unit apartment complex, which will include a parking garage and ground-level retail space. [Washington Business Journal]
Update at 4:15 p.m. — All evening ART routes are in operation tonight except the 61B. However, many routes will operate less frequently than usual. See the ART web site for more information. Arlington officials say that about 23 bus drivers did not report to work today.
Update at 8:45 a.m. — We’re told via Twitter and email that drivers are striking near the Courthouse Metro station.
Arlington Transit bus riders are being told to “expect delays on all routes” this morning.
The agency says the delays are “due to circumstances beyond our control.” ARLnow.com hears that bus drivers have called in sick en masse due to a
wage labor dispute.
ART is also advising that the 61B bus is not in service, and that riders should use the 61A instead.
The Sun Gazette reported over the weekend that the County Board discussed “management-labor issues with the contractor that runs the Arlington Transit (ART) bus service.” Sun Gazette editor Scott McCaffrey described the discussion as a “pander-a-thon” in favor of the bus drivers, who are paid less than their counterparts at Metro.