About 300 janitors at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda and two other federal facilities on Tuesday received the paychecks they were owed last week.
The workers with Escab Enterprises were called into the Gaithersburg contractor’s office Friday and told they would not receive their paychecks for their work from the previous two weeks.
The company had submitted an invoice in October for the incorrect amount and the federal government returned it for corrections and refiling, said Regina Adams, a spokeswoman for Naval Facilities Engineering Command in Washington, D.C., which oversees the contract for Walter Reed.
Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ filed a complaint with the federal Department of Labor, saying that even if Escab had not received its disbursement from the federal government, it still was legally required to pay its employees, who make $13.97 per hour, said union spokeswoman Julie Karant.
The janitors received their paychecks Tuesday afternoon, but workers were worried whether the checks would bounce, Karant said. Some earlier paychecks had not cleared when workers deposited them, she said.
“The federal government has a responsibility to ensure that the vendors that it hires treat their workers fairly,” Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown (D) said in an emailed statement. “These men and women do an honest day’s work and deserve to be paid accordingly. I urge all parties involved to resolve this matter quickly.”
Gabriel Rivera, 37, one of 220 janitors who work at Walter Reed, told The Gazette on Monday he was worried about how he was going to feed his family and pay his bills. At the time, the company had not told the workers when they would receive their paychecks.
Karant said the workers also are concerned whether they will face the same issues on their next payday.
In addition, the company also had stopped paying health insurance premiums for the workers, Rivera said.
Calls to Escab Enterprises were not returned before deadline.
In addition to Walter Reed, the company provided janitors for the Internal Revenue Service and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, which is next to Walter Reed.
Rivera said Escab 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.
The company had stopped paying the workers’ insurance premiums in June, but the janitors didn’t want to strike because keeping a clean hospital is important for patients’ health, he said.
Rivera said he works nights at Walter Reed and days at a motel to support his wife and three children.
Even though he works two jobs and his wife has a part-time job, his family lives paycheck to paycheck, Rivera said.
“My bills don’t stop if they don’t pay me,” he said.