A petition filed by a Union Kitchen employee is calling for the end to its relationship with its labor union, but the union is dismissing the effort as a ploy by management.
It was announced on Friday that a Union Kitchen employee has filed a petition with the National Labor Review Board (NLRB) to end its relationship with United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 400. The petition has reportedly been signed by a number of Union Kitchen employees, including those who work at the Ballston location
This would effectively end UFCW Local 400’s ability to bargain and support unionized employees at Union Kitchen.
“Employees of five Union Kitchen Grocery locations in the Washington, DC, metro area have filed a petition seeking to end United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 400’s monopoly bargaining power over workers,” reads a press release. “The employees submitted their decertification petition to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 5 with free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.”
But a UFCW Local 400 spokesperson insisted that this effort isn’t legit, accusing Union Kitchen management of being involved in the petition and using potentially illegal tactics, like intimidating employees, to sign the petition.
“Our take is that it’s basically bullshit,” Travis Acton said. “We knew this was coming. This is not a surprise. The only thing, honestly, that caught me by surprise is how blatantly illegal they’re going about it.”
It was just over a year ago when employees at five Union Kitchens voted in favor of forming a union, including the one in Ballston on Wilson Blvd. That came after a long-running effort that was delayed due to challenged ballots and charges of unfair labor practices. It has continued to be a contentious relationship ever since.
In November, the NLRB determined that Union Kitchen management violated 26 counts of labor law including union-busting tactics and wrongfully terminating employees. In March of this year, the union filed a wage theft lawsuit against management. And just last month, the union called for a boycott of all Union Kitchen locations.
The boycott remains ongoing, Acton said.
The employees who are calling for the decertification are being provided “free legal aid” by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, a non-profit with a mission to “eliminate coercive union power and compulsory unionism abuses.”
In the press release sent out by National Right to Work, the organization said that a single employee submitted the petition but it has been supported “by the vast majority of her coworkers.” The employee claimed in a letter sent to Union Kitchen CEO Cullen Gilchrist that close to 90% of workers signed the petition, as reported by the Washington Business Journal.
Acton said that those numbers might be misleading. He told ARLnow that in recent months the company has significantly added to the list of employees that are eligible to be represented by the union. Acton claims that a number of those added employees are actually people in management roles, those who own brands sold at the store, and those who might have personal relationships with Gilchrist.
“Nobody’s ever seen them work in the store or work an actual shift in the store,” he said.
Plus, Acton claimed, that he’s heard from employees who felt like they were forced to sign the petition or they would get fired.
“Based on our experience over the last six months to a year of them firing anybody who comes to the bargaining table, who supports the union, I believe them,” he said.
Intimidation of this nature is potentially illegal, according to federal law.
As expected, Union Kitchen CEO Cullen Gilchrist supports the petition to end the company’s employees’ relationship with the union and specifically noted the ongoing boycott as the reason for his support in the following email to ARLnow.
(Updated at 2:25 p.m.) A major rally is being planned for later this week in front of the county government headquarters, in a show of solidarity with recently-unionized Starbucks employees.
The president of the AFL-CIO and Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) are both expected to attend, among others.
The rally is one of ten across the county, organized as part of a National Day of Action by Starbucks Workers United. It’s set for this Friday, Dec. 9, at 5 p.m. outside of the Bozman Government Center at 2100 Clarendon Blvd.
Organizers say Liz Shuler the president of the AFL-CIO, the largest federation of unions in the country, will be there and speaking. Plus, a number of state and local elected officials are planning to attend, including Beyer, State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30), and Del. Alfonso Lopez (D- 49).
Several County Board members are also expected to attend, including Christian Dorsey, Matt de Ferranti, and Takis Karantonis.
Speeches are planned from Shuler, Beyer, and several regional union leaders — including Arlington and Fairfax County teachers union presidents, who will say they will be rejecting Starbucks gift cards as holiday presents for this year in protest.
THIS FRIDAY (12/9): Stand up against Starbucks Corporate bullies at the @SBWorkersUnited Solidarity rally at the Bozman Government Center Plaza in Arlington, VA at 5pm! Pizza party afterwards at Fireworks Pizza! #SolidarityIsBrewing
RSVP: https://t.co/lzpahW0ABE pic.twitter.com/91kQEjaFZs
— Metro DC DSA Labor Working Group (@mdcdsa_labor) December 5, 2022
This “Day of Action” is also meant to ask Starbucks to stop “bullying” unionized employees and to highlight its workers’ right to organize.
“The purpose of the Day of Action is for the entire community to tell Starbucks to stop its union-busting and respect its workers’ right to organize,” says a press release.
Dec. 9 marks the one-year anniversary of the first Starbucks union election victory in Buffalo, New York. Since then more than 260 stores have voted to unionize, involving more than 7,000 workers.
Over the last year, the coffee behemoth has been hit with hundreds of unfair labor practice charges, including retaliatory firings, closing union stores, and withholding benefits from employees. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is investigating more than 300 of these accusations.
On Nov. 9, Starbucks employees at the Courthouse Plaza location voted to unionize and join Starbucks Workers United. It was the second D.C.-area Starbucks to do so. Union members told ARLnow at the time they were seeking better pay, more consistent hours, and uniformly enforced rules and regulations.
Employees went on strike shortly thereafter.
“Starbucks has been dragging its feet coming to the negotiation table,” employee and union member Sam Dukore said at the time. “And even when they do, their lawyers stand up after like a minute and a half or so and just leave. And that is not negotiating in good faith.”
Since the strike several weeks ago, “the company is still not coming to the bargaining table” a union spokesperson told ARLnow.
Union Kitchen employees, including those at the Ballston location, have officially won their election to form a union.
Yesterday (June 21), employees at five Union Kitchen locations announced that a majority voted in an election to unionize with the United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 400. This includes employees at the Ballston retail shop and restaurant located at 4102 Wilson Blvd.
The final count was 20 votes in favor of unionizing and 11 votes against.
The vote comes about five months after employees first announced their intent to form a union. The vote took place back in March, with the election being conducted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). But results were delayed due, in part, to management challenging the eligibility of a number of ballots, as reported by DCist.
The workers cited pay cuts, lack of sick leave, and staffing shortages as the major reasons for organizing. Also, they’ve alleged that management has retaliated against workers for unionizing, an act that would be in violation of federal law. By unionizing, employees will now be able to negotiate as a unit.
The union’s main requests when they go to the negotiating table will be to start pay at $22 an hour and to increase staffing by 20% due to the stores being “severely understaffed,” union organizing committee member and former Ballston employee Mckenna Willis tells ARLnow.
In a press release, UFCW Local 400 called on Union Kitchen’s owner to come to the negotiating table.
We are pleased to announce that Union Kitchen is now unionized! After management spent the last few months attempting to postpone this result, all votes have finally been counted. We won our union.
We would like to thank all of our customers, elected officials, community allies, fellow union members and supporters everywhere who never stopped believing this day would come. We know we can count on you moving forward.
Now, we call on owner Cullen Gilchrist to respect the outcome of this election, cease his delay tactics, and finally sit down with us to negotiate a union contract.
ARLnow has reached out to Union Kitchen management and Gilchrist, but has yet to hear back as of publication.
Union Kitchen first began as an accelerator a decade ago, helping food startups by providing expertise. It has since grown into being a retail shop and restaurant. The Ballston location opened in August 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, selling a variety of coffees, convenience items as well as a takeout menu with sandwiches, pizzas, salads, and breakfast.
When ARLnow first spoke with Willis back in March, she was working at the Ballston location. She’s now a former employee, after making the decision to leave the about two weeks ago. It had become a “really difficult work environment” and was “taking a toll” on her, she says. Back in March, Willis accused management of cutting her hours after a meeting where she brought up her concerns.
“We’ve all been waiting so long,” she said of learning about the unionization vote. “When I got the text, I almost started crying. So many of us put hours and hours of work into this. For the workers that are there, it means that they have representation and the power to not be scared anymore.”
The effort follows a nationwide and local trend of employees deciding to unionize. Employees at a Starbucks in Merrifield voted to form a union in April. Late last year, employees at the bookstore Politics and Prose in D.C. also voted to unionize. Just last week, Apple store workers in Towson, Maryland became the first employees at the company to unionize.
In recent months, she says that a number of customers have approached her and co-workers at the Ballston location to express their support.
“We’ve had just overwhelming community support from Arlington,” she said. “So many people have just stopped in to say that they’ve heard about the union… that’s what brings us our strength.”
Metro Tests New Tech in Pentagon City — The Transportation Security Administration and Metro rolled out new security technology at the Pentagon City Metro station on Tuesday. The system “can detect an individual concealing an improvised explosive device, such as a suicide vest or another weapon.” [Fox 5, Twitter]
HQ2 Leads to Development Boom — “Arlington officials, developers, market researchers — everyone, really — predicted that Amazon.com Inc.’s arrival in the county would generate a development boom in the company’s neighborhood. So far, they’ve been right.” [Washington Business Journal]
Tafti Sworn in as Prosecutor — Parisa Dehghani-Tafti was sworn in Monday as Commonwealth’s Attorney for Arlington and Falls Church. On Tuesday she warned a crowd at a progressive think tank there has been a “growing narrative in pretty extreme circles that trying to reimagine the criminal-legal system is somehow going to make us less safe…somehow disrespects victims.” [Twitter, Blue Virginia]
Airport Authority Voting on $15 Wage — After years of protests, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority is set to vote today on a new policy that would increase the hourly wages of contracted workers — baggage handlers, wheelchair attendants, lobby agents, skycaps, cabin cleaners, airport concessions and airline catering workers — from $12.75 to $15 by 2023. [Press Release]
Beyer Pushing for Quieter Airplanes — Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), who has long advocated against excessive noise from aircraft landing at and taking off from Reagan National Airport, is calling on NASA to study ways to make commercial jetliners quieter and cleaner in a new bill. [Press Release]
Northam Proposes Nixing Vehicle Inspections — “Gov. Ralph Northam wants to end state-mandated vehicle safety inspections and cut vehicle registration fees in half, proposals his administration says would eventually save Virginians more than $280 million per year. But motorists would have to pay a few dollars more each time they fill up on gas under a proposal to increase the state’s motor vehicle fuels tax from about 22 cents per gallon to 34 cents per gallon over three years.” [Virginia Mercury]
Labor Rule Violations Alleged at Temporary HQ2 Projects — “A union is charging that employers at six construction projects that will house Amazon employees or operations in Northern Virginia have evaded federal and state taxes by misclassifying workers, failing to carry workers’ compensation coverage and avoiding overtime pay.” [Washington Post]
Beyer Voting Yes on Impeachment — “The facts allow for no other interpretation: President Trump violated his oath of office to faithfully execute the laws. In order to cover up his offenses, he engaged in unprecedented obstruction of Congress’s oversight power and role as an equal branch of government.” [Press Release]
Voting Precinct Changes Planned — “Voters in two Arlington precincts will see their polling locations changed in 2020. Those in Overlee Knolls (Precinct 017) will move from the Reed School at 1644 North McKinley Road… Those in Rosslyn (Precinct 019) will move from 1911 Fort Myer Drive to the new H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program building.” [InsideNova]
How Arlington’s Streets Got Renamed — “If you harbor gripes that our county government gets too ambitious, consider an episode from the 1930s. In what probably ranks as the most disruptive Arlington project ever, our entire street grid was renamed.” [Falls Church News-Press]
Road Closures for Wreaths Across America — “The annual Wreaths Across America escort of handmade, balsam wreaths destined for Arlington National Cemetery will begin arriving in Arlington County on Friday… On Saturday, December 14th, several thousand volunteers will descend upon the Cemetery and help lay wreaths on every gravesite throughout the property beginning at 8 AM. The public can anticipate large crowds and heavy pedestrian traffic related to the event.” [Arlington County, YouTube]
Holiday Arts and Crafts Show in Crystal City This Weekend — “GRUMP is back for its 9th year, returning to The Shops at Crystal City at 2100 Crystal Drive. GRUMP Crystal City is where you can shop local from 50 exciting artists and makers and stop for a photo op with one of our many Yetis.” [Event Calendar]
Nearby: Police Warn of Abduction Attempt — “City of Falls Church Police are seeking a suspect in an attempted abduction… The suspect is wanted for questioning after he approached a juvenile outside of a grocery store and told the juvenile to leave with him. The suspect left when the juvenile’s mother returned.” [City of Falls Church]
Airline catering workers at Reagan National Airport are planning to picket and stage a sit-in today to protest “poverty wages [and] expensive healthcare.”
The workers, who work for companies contracted by the airlines, are paid as little as $12.15 an hour and many don’t receive company-provided healthcare, according to labor union UNITE HERE Local 23.
Around 5:30 p.m. today, on perhaps the busiest travel day of the year, workers are planning to engage in “informational picketing,” followed by a “nonviolent civil disobedience sit-in” at DCA’s American Airlines Terminal C.
This is the latest in a series of labor actions targeting airline contractors at National Airport over the past few years — including one recent rally with Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
More from UNITE HERE:
This protest is set to be the latest in a series of demonstrations by airline catering workers at U.S. airports. Though their work is essential to airline operations, wages are as low as $12.15 an hour. Only 32% of workers at LSG Sky Chefs at DCA had company healthcare in 2018, and only 10% covered any dependents. Meanwhile, American reported a 2018 annual profit of $1.9 billion. Workers hope that by bringing their message to the many passengers travelling before Thanksgiving, they will motivate American to resolve the labor dispute.
In addition to ongoing protest activity at DCA, previous large-scale demonstrations calling attention to American Airlines have already taken place this year in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and Dallas-Ft. Worth–where over 50 were arrested in a civil disobedience near American Airlines’ headquarters and largest hub airport. This past summer UNITE HERE airline catering workers at DCA voted overwhelmingly to strike when released by the National Mediation Board. Federal mediation of contract negotiations continues.
In D.C., where the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority passed a workers wage policy in 2017, the Board’s resolution stated that MWAA would review the policy no later than December 31, 2019. The last scheduled raise in the MWAA policy is for $12.75 on January 1, 2020, and then will rise with inflation. Meanwhile, the minimum wage in D.C. is already $14, rising to $15 on July 1, 2020, and then rising with inflation. Workers are pushing MWAA to raise the minimum wage for all airport workers to catch up to the rising minimum wage in D.C., and address the growing health care crisis at Reagan National and Dulles International Airports.
A rally for airline workers rights drew hundreds to Reagan National Airport, including a number of Democratic presidential hopefuls.
Labor union UNITE HERE helped organize the rally in support of airport catering workers, who are planning a large-scale strike if their demands for better wages and benefits are not met. Presidential candidates Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio were among those on hand to support the workers, along with other labor unions and local officials.
“No one should have to choose between healthcare and paying the rent,” Warren called out amid cheers.
The Massachusetts senator’s speech on Tuesday echoed her support for more corporate regulations.
“Giant corporations believe if they just push hard enough the unions will just go away,” she said. Since entering the race in February, Warren has since risen in recent polls to second among the crowded field.
Tuesday’s crowd was equally loud for two-time presidential candidate Sanders, who was ushered to the podium among chants of “We Love Bernie!”
“At a time when corporate profits are a record-breaking level, our demands are simple,” said the senator, who rose to popularity for his stance on economic inequality. “Pay your workers a living wage and provide… affordable healthcare for your workers,” Sanders said.
Sanders noted workers in the D.C. area “cannot live on $10 hour” wages due to the rising costs of living and housing.
Presidential hopeful Bill de Blasio also received a warm welcome and led the crowd in chanting of “working people first!”
“I hear they made $15 billion in profits last year,” de Blasio said of recent airline earning reports. “Are are they sharing that?”
The catering workforce authorized the strike earlier in June, but airline workers must gain approval from the federal National Mediation Board for large-scale strikes due to the potential impact on travelers. Workers are seeking to reach a new collective bargaining agreement with the private companies who contract them to assemble the food for airlines: LSG Sky Chefs and Gate Gourmet.
The companies have said they cannot meet the demands for increased wages and benefits, telling the Huffington Post that could “more than double” their costs.
About a thousand union members in red shirts with slogans like “One Job Should Be Enough” gathered in Terminal A to hear the speakers. But it’s not the first time DCA has seen labor unrest. In 2016, service workers nearly went on strike for a $15 minimum wage.
“We’re going to fight like hell,” UNITE HERE president D. Taylor told the cheering crowd Tuesday night. “We’re going to kick the hell out of American [Airlines].”
Workers at several other airports nationwide are also asking for permission to strike, according to a map shared by the union.
Catering employees Tenai Stover and Eric Brightley, who said they prepare the food and beverages served on DCA and Dulles flights as part of their work at LSG Sky Chefs, each described to ARLnow difficulty making ends meet given the meager pay.
Amazon is showing an increasing willingness to sign a collective bargaining agreement with local unions before it sets to work building new office space in Arlington, perhaps meeting a frequent demand of activists concerned about the tech giant’s labor practices.
Though the company cautions that nothing is set in stone until county officials formally sign off on an incentive deal to bring the tech giant’s new headquarters to Crystal City and Pentagon City, Amazon is sending signals that it’s open to the prospect of striking a “project labor agreement” with construction workers who could someday erect the company’s future home in Arlington.
Should the company someday strike such a deal, commonly known as a “PLA,” the agreement would set out the employment conditions for all workers involved in Amazon’s construction efforts (whether or not they belong to a union) before the company starts accepting bids for the project. The PLA could govern everything from pay rates to workers’ compensation claims, and the agreements are generally designed to ensure labor peace during a major project while also improving conditions for workers.
“We’re definitely open to it,” Amazon spokeswoman Jill Kerr told ARLnow. “But this is all still pretty early. We really have our heads down, focused on working with the community on this initial package for approval before county officials.”
Kerr says that company has already held an initial meeting on the topic with representatives from the Baltimore-D.C. Building Trades, a coalition of unionized construction workers, and JBG Smith, the company’s future landlord at some existing buildings and development partner for other properties.
A spokesman for JBG Smith declined to comment on the deliberations, but Kerr stressed that discussions were “all hypothetical” and remain very much in the earliest possible stages of debate. Amazon plans to both build new offices in Pentagon City and renovate others in Crystal City, and Kerr believes it’s too early to say how any future PLA would apply to that range of projects.
However, Steve Courtien, the D.C. field representative for the building trades, came away from the meeting cautiously optimistic about the prospects of someday striking a deal with Amazon.
During a Feb. 3 town hall on Amazon convened by Arlington Democrats, he said the company seemed generally “positive” about the idea, particularly because the tech firm has worked out PLAs for some of its other projects around the country — Kerr said she was unable to confirm that latter assertion.
As for JBG Smith, Courtien said the idea of a PLA was more of a “mind bend” to them, but he fully expects the development firm to follow Amazon’s lead, given the size of the company’s investment in the area.
“That’s what they have to get past,” Courtien said. “Amazon basically has to tell JBG, ‘this is what we want,’ then they say ‘OK’ and negotiate the PLA with private contractors.”
The County Board is signaling that it’s broadly supportive of those efforts, and members have said in the past that they’ve encouraged Amazon to strike a PLA before moving into Arlington.
But Virginia law prohibits government agencies from requiring PLAs as a condition of allowing new construction (in keeping with the state’s tradition of pro-business, anti-union regulations) and county officials are cautioning that they’ll only have a limited role to play in the discussions.
“I think I speak for the whole Board in saying it’s something we’re all supportive of,” County Board member Erik Gutshall said during the town hall. “But it’s not something we can legally mandate from them.”
Anti-Amazon activists have been similarly enthusiastic about the idea of a PLA for the company’s construction work, considering the frequent concerns raised about how the tech giant treats its warehouse workers.
Stories of employees being unable to take bathroom breaks without risking their jobs or warehouses filled with boiling heat in the summer and freezing cold in the winter have spooked many county residents. Roshan Abraham, a leading Amazon critic as part of his leadership role with the progressive group Our Revolution Arlington, also points out that the company has pledged to oppose any unionization efforts it encounters at its other new headquarters in New York City.
That’s why Abraham believes it will be crucial for Arlington workers to secure a PLA before Amazon comes to town, though he fears it might not be enough to combat the huge company’s power.
“We shouldn’t stop just at a PLA,” Abraham said during the town hall. “We should be pressuring them even further to stay out of their union-busting behavior, which has been pretty well documented elsewhere.”
Ultimately, Abraham is so skeptical of the company’s business practices that he believes it’s a poor fit for Arlington’s values (even though he is “not that deluded” to believe that the county will turn down the company’s new headquarters).
Board members say they have their own concerns about Amazon’s ethics, whether it signs a PLA or not, but they don’t believe they’re substantial enough to justify barring the company from moving in.
After all, Gutshall pointed out that Arlington is also home to Boeing, a major military contractor, and while he may not like that they “manufacture equipment that is designed to kill people all over the world,” he hasn’t tried to chase the company away.
“We’ve not made it a condition of a corporation locating here or a resident locating here to abide by our progressive values for how you conduct your business,” said County Board member Katie Cristol. “Some 10 or 15 percent of Arlingtonians voted for Donald Trump. I’m not a fan of that, but I’m not going to try to kick them out of Arlington County or say they can’t live here.”
Photo via JBG Smith
Arlington Named Top Digital County Again — “Arlington County is the No. 1 digital county in the nation for a third straight year. The Center for Digital Government and National Association of Counties 2018 award recognizes Arlington for its best technology practices in areas of open government, transparency, public engagement, planning, cyber security and operations.” [Arlington County]
Robbery in Courthouse — Two men reportedly robbed the Dunkin’ Donuts on Wilson Blvd in Courthouse yesterday evening. The men demanded money and fled the scene with cash but did not display any weapons during the robbery, according to initial reports. [Twitter]
Kaine to Campaign in Arlington Today — Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) tonight “will host a ‘Neighbor to Neighbor’ community conversation in Arlington to engage Northern Virginia voters on the critical issues facing our country and take their questions.” The event is taking place at the Barcroft Park Picnic Shelter (4200 S. Four Mile Run Drive) at 6:30 p.m.
Britney Spears Touches Down in Arlington — Britney Spears arrived at Reagan National Airport ahead of the kick off of her summer tour. Photos and video show her walking through the terminal with a small entourage. [Daily Mail]
Arlington to Pay to Help Retain Federal Tenant — “Arlington taxpayers will be on the hook for nearly $8 million over 10 years to subsidize a lease that will retain the Office of Naval Research in the county. County Board members on July 14 are expected to approve an incentive package that will keep the federal agency in its current 314,000 square feet of office space in Ballston.” [InsideNova]
Suspect Hailed Cab After Pike Burglary — “A burglar made his getaway from a scene in Arlington by hailing a taxi, according to officials. The Arlington County Police Department said the burglar targeted a business in the 3100 block of Columbia Pike near the Westmont neighborhood at about 10:25 a.m. on Sunday.” [Fox 5 DC]
George Mason Drive Detour — A “small detour” will be in place this weekend on N. George Mason Drive “as crews above remove the old half still remaining from the soon-to-be-replaced Carlin Springs Road Bridge.” [Twitter]
White Ford Bronco Profiled — Prolific local 90s cover band White Ford Bronco is the subject of a newspaper profile that dubs it the “undisputed king of D.C. cover bands.” The profile recounts that “at a recent concert at the Clarendon Ballroom, guys in button-down shirts and Birkenstocks pumped their fists to the chorus of ‘Mr. Jones.'” [Washington Post]
Metrobus Delays This Morning — Metrobus passengers reported delays and missed routes this morning, which WMATA says was the result of “bus operators reporting late to work as part of a collective labor action by their union.” [Twitter, WTOP]
Woman Pleads Guilty to Oxycodone Conspiracy — A former medical assistant at doctor’s offices in Arlington and Alexandria has pleaded guilty “for her role in leading a conspiracy to distribute oxycodone,” according to federal prosecutors. “From 2011 through December 2017, [Louise] Edwards stole blank prescription pads and electronically-generated fraudulent prescriptions using a medical recordkeeping system… Edwards facilitated the fraudulent filling of at least 353 prescriptions, totaling 42,360 pills of 30 milligram oxycodone.” [Alexandria News, Patch]
Elected Officials Support Striking Workers — Local elected officials, including Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol and state Sen. Barbara Favola, are scheduled to meet this morning with Didlake Inc. employees who work at the Army National Guard Readiness Center on S. George Mason Drive. The employees are on strike after the company refused to recognize their vote to join a union.
Thousands Attend RFK Memorial at ANC — Thousands of people attended a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery yesterday marking the 50th anniversary of the death of Robert F. Kennedy. Speakers at the memorial included Rep. John Lewis, Parkland school shooting survivor Emma Gonzalez, and former President Bill Clinton. Country music star Kenny Chesney played a rendition of “This Land is Your Land.” [Associated Press]
Meeting Space Coming to Rosslyn — “Meeting and event space provider Convene has inked a deal to open a new location high atop the CEB Tower at Central Place in Rosslyn, where it plans to join the building’s namesake tenant as early as October. The New York-based company has signed a 14.5-year sublease for 35,000 square feet from Gartner Inc., CEB’s parent company, at 1201 Wilson Blvd.” [Washington Business Journal]
Sun Gazette Endorses de Ferranti — The Arlington Sun Gazette has endorsed Matt de Ferranti in the Democratic Arlington County Board primary, which will be held this coming Tuesday. However, the paper has little good to say about him, instead opining that he and fellow candidate Chanda Choun lack “deep roots in the community and, we fear, each has yet to develop an ingrained grasp of local issues to provide a viable challenge to the very plugged-in incumbent [John Vihstadt].” [InsideNova, InsideNova]
Photo via @ArlingtonVaFD
(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.