Tag Archives: worker protection

County Announces Recovery of Unpaid Wages for 318 County Contractors

Legislation Introduced by Councilmembers Navarro and Elrich Provides Necessary Enforcement Power

ROCKVILLE, Md., June 17, 2016—Today the Montgomery County Office of Procurement announced the recovery of $300,070 in unpaid wages for 318 individuals employed by five different service contractors engaged in contracts with the County.  Last year Councilmember Nancy Navarro, who serves as chair of the Council’s Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee and Councilmember Marc Elrich, who serves as chair of the Council’s Public Safety Committee, introduced Bill 43-15 to enhance enforcement of the County’s Wage Requirements Law, which is also known as the “living wage” law.

The County Council unanimously enacted the living wage legislation, which took effect on May 10, 2016. Cherri Branson, director of the County’s Office of Procurement, credited the law with giving her office the additional “enforcement power” needed to take this unprecedented action.

“It is unconscionable that this type of illegal behavior, which is harmful to our most vulnerable workers, went on for so long,” said Councilmember Nancy Navarro. “I am pleased that the County Council took the necessary steps to ensure that our Office of Procurement has the tools and resources required to enforce the law.  We must make sure that all of our workers are paid the County’s living wage.”

“In 2002, the Council passed a living wage bill with the clear intent to provide employees with a living wage,” said Councilmember Elrich. “It is unfortunate that certain unscrupulous business owners managed to subvert the intent of the law, to the detriment of their employees. As amended today, the law now has clear reporting requirements and distinct penalties for not paying employees on County contracts a living wage. I am proud to stand with Councilmember Navarro and my colleagues in sending this clear message that the County will protect contractor employees’ right to earn a living wage.”

The Office of Procurement has identified the companies, who have since taken corrective action, as Camco; LT Services; Potomac Disposal; Securitas; and Unity.

The current living wage rate is $14.35 per hour for fiscal year 2016. Starting July 1, 2016, the rate will increase to $14.40 per hour for fiscal year 2017.  Enacted Bill 43-15 can be viewed at:




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Affordable Health Insurance for County Contractors

In the fall of 2013, I began working to make sure the lowest income employees of Montgomery County’s contractors had access to affordable health insurance. In 2014, I introduced Bill 14-14, requiring County contractors to provide affordable health insurance to
health-insurancetheir employees.

Through the legislative process, the bill was amended (and passed in April 2015) to make some very important changes to help these employees obtain health insurance. First, the new law requires County contractors to allow Health and Human Services (HHS) employees to help their employees sign up for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) during work hours. The Council added $30,000 to the budget this year for HHS staff that will focus on this target population. Next, Bill 14-14 requires all County contractors to submit payroll reports that include information on how many of their employees have health insurance and the premium split. This information will allow the County to better understand the universe of uninsured employees of County contractors so we can provide help to get them covered. Finally, the new law strengthens the Living Wage Law by requiring the County to keep these payroll/health insurance records on file for at least three years. This provision will enable employees to challenge employers in court if they believe they were paid less than the Living Wage. The Council added about $100,000 to the budget to enforce this section of the law.

While Bill 14-14 was a good first step, the work of making sure employees of County contractors have access to affordable health insurance is not over. That’s why I introduced Bill 5-15, which creates an incentive for businesses to provide insurance to their employees that seek to do business with the County. The bill creates a preference (to be determined for each contract) for businesses that offer health insurance to their employees. Today, the Council approved Bill 5-15 by a vote of 7-1.

I want to thank my colleagues for their support of these initiatives over the past two years. Bill 14-14 and Bill 5-15 will ensure more of our lowest-paid workers have access to affordable health insurance.


The Displaced Worker Protection Act

Today, the Council passed the Displaced Worker Protection Act, a bill to help the most vulnerable members of our workforce. I was proud to co-sponsor and vote for this legislation because it provides a modest level of stability for those who need it most, without imposing too heavy a burden on their employers. I want to thank Councilmember Valerie Ervin for her leadership on this issue.

The bill provides that low-wage building service workers — the employees that clean our bathrooms, shovel our sidewalks, and keep our offices secure — cannot be fired without cause for 90 days when a building changes contractors. These are people who go to work every day; many work more than one job just to make ends meet. Low wages and limited benefits mean that these employees don’t have savings to draw on in an emergency, and sudden termination can leave them and their families without any way to support themselves.

President Obama issued an Executive Order applying this protection to employees of federal contractors less than two weeks after he took office in 2009. Similar legislation has already been successful in:

  • Washington DC
  • Los Angeles
  • New York City
  • San Francisco
  • Providence

In each case, the evidence shows that these provisions help low wage employees without stunting local economies or pushing businesses into other jurisdictions.

I understand and respect those who believe this measure is too intrusive or that it might damage our economy. I’ve received a lot of correspondence about this bill — both for and against. I’m grateful for the input of both sides.

But I have also received correspondence on this bill that relied on incendiary language and vague accusations to demonize low wage workers in our community, rather than constructive arguments. For example, one email I received urged me to vote “Hell No” on this bill because, it claimed, most low wage workers are “illegal aliens.” The emailed continued:

Workers are sometimes fired within hours after a new contractor comes in, creating instability and hardship for their children and families. I have no problem with this.

Clearly, this is the sentiment of one individual, and most of this bill’s opponents oppose it for entirely legitimate reasons. And I have seen day after day serving on this Council that every one of my fellow Councilmembers are here with the best intentions to fight against “creating instability and hardship for … children and families.” But this kind of rhetoric pops up every time we consider greater protections for those who are the most vulnerable in our society, and I believe it is important to highlight and refute it.

When I ran for this office, I promised to stand up for all of my constituents — rich and poor; black, white and brown; gay and straight; east-county, mid-county, and up-county. I believe that if you work hard and play by the rules, the government should play a role to make sure you have the opportunity to make a better life for yourself and your family. All too often, people look at service employees as disposable — that we can replace one worker with another and no one would notice. But I notice. The people protected by this bill are mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, people who work the graveyard shift cleaning toilets, then take 3 buses to a second job so they can put food on the table and send their kids to college. And I am proud that, with the passage of this bill, when service workers are summarily terminated without some modicum of notice or cause, Montgomery County’s government will notice too.