Montgomery council members visit striking trash workers -- Gazette.Net


A Montgomery County Council committee will examine the procurement process to make sure wage rules and other requirements for county contracts are being followed, said council President Nancy Navarro on Thursday. She spoke while visiting striking workers of one of the county’s trash-hauling companies.

Navarro (D-Dist. 4) of Silver Spring said the council’s Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee would look into the issue at a coming meeting. No date for the meeting has been set.

Navarro visited workers of Potomac Disposal on Thursday morning outside the company’s facility in Gaithersburg. She was joined by Councilmen Hans Riemer (D-At Large) of Silver Spring and Marc Elrich (D-At Large) of Takoma Park.

The three spoke to about 30 workers along Woodfield Road in Gaithersburg, several of whom banged drums and cymbals as others held signs with various messages, including some proclaiming “Huelga,” the Spanish word for “strike.”

The workers are on strike, seeking a new contract that includes higher wages and affordable health care.

Workers from Unity Disposal and Recycling, a Laurel company that also has a contract with the county to haul trash, also are on strike, for unrelated reasons.

About 70 Unity workers were terminated last week after the firing of a co-worker who criticized the company’s attempts to persuade workers not to join a union.

Several cars honked at the workers as they drove past, including a Unity truck.

County officials have said that garbage service will continue during the strikes, although it may be slower than normal.

The majority of the Potomac workers are low-income people of color, including many Latinos, Navarro said.

Riemer said he and his colleagues came out to support the workers.

He said he had a neighbor when he was growing up whose father was a sanitation worker. None of the current workers, he said, could afford a middle-class neighborhood with what they get paid.

The county has standards under which contracts are given out, including the right for workers to earn a wage that lets them take care of themselves and their families, Elrich said.

County contracts require a living wage of $13.65 an hour.

An initial study by a firm hired by the county found that Potomac failed to meet the living wage requirement on 6 percent of payment transactions on a sample of 33 workers between April 1 and June 30.

The county is conducting an audit on its three trash companies.

The county has a complaint-based system for ensuring compliance, and it can’t police every contract, Elrich said.

But, he said, there ought to be a way to pull up a company’s payroll records and make sure it is complying with the county’s requirements.