The Gaithersburg company contracted to provide more than 300 janitors to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, the Uniformed Services University and the Internal Revenue Service has failed to pay them for weeks, but has told them to continue to report for their shifts, according to the union representing the workers.
Services Employees International Union Local 32BJ filed a complaint with the federal labor department on behalf of the workers because their employer, Escab Enterprises, has failed to pay them for at least the past two weeks. Most of them, about 220, work at Walter Reed in Bethesda.
Calls to the company president were not returned before deadline.
The workers, who make $13.97 per hour, were supposed to be paid for the previous two weeks, but did not receive their pay checks on Friday, said SEIU spokeswoman Julie Karant.
The company has told the janitors to continue working, but has not told them when or if they would be paid the wages they are owed, Karant said.
The company had received $40 million since 2008 for the contract to provide the janitorial service.
Gabriel Rivera, a janitor with Escab who has worked at Walter Reed for the past three years, said the company recently had lost the contract at Walter Reed and a new company is about to take it over. The current janitors have applied for jobs with the new contractor.
Company officials met with workers Friday and told them they were not receiving paychecks, but should keep coming in, Rivera said.
The company had stopped paying the workersí insurance premiums in June, but the janitors didnít want to strike because keeping a clean hospital is important for the patientsí health, he said.
Rivera works nights at Walter Reed and days at a motel to help support his wife and three children.
ďIíve got bills to pay, Iíve got children to feed, loans to repay,Ē Rivera said.
In the complaint, filed Saturday and amended Monday by the union, the union asks that the federal government stop disbursements to Escab and pay the workers directly first to ensure they are compensated.
ďIf I go and am working, I believe I should be compensated for the work Iíve done,Ē Rivera said.
Even with him working two full-time jobs and his wife working a part-time job, his family lives paycheck to paycheck, Rivera said.
ďMy bills donít stop if they donít pay me,Ē he said.