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Displaced Worker Protection Act Stirs Up Debate

PHOTO: A contract office-cleaning crew member. Courtesy of 32BJ SEIU.
PHOTO: A contract office-cleaning crew member. Courtesy of 32BJ SEIU.
September 17, 2012

ROCKVILLE, Md. - A new service contractor walks in the door and, suddenly, workers for the previous contractor lose their jobs. It happens frequently in the property management industry, and the Montgomery County Council has taken notice. The Council is set to vote Tuesday on the Displaced Worker Protection Act (County Bill 19-12), which would give those employees notice of layoffs and allow them to stay on with the new contractor for up to 90 days.

County Council member Valerie Ervin explains why she is carrying the legislation.

"This offers a very modest measure of protection for one of the lowest-paid groups of service workers in our community - people who are janitors or people who are security guards."

To her surprise, the bill has sparked some controversy, Ervin says, with the Chamber of Commerce lobbying against it - even though some contractors support it because they would have more time to hire new employees.

Similar laws are on the books around the country. Ervin says the Montgomery County Council version is based on one in Washington, D.C. She says the experience with the law there counters opponents' claims that the bill will hurt contractors.

"We have seen no evidence of that. As a matter of fact, in the 18 years the bill has been on the books in the District, there might have been three complaints, which is negligible."

Members of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 32-BJ have lobbied in favor of the bill. The union has nearly 5,000 members working in Maryland.

Bill details are available at

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MD