UE Local 208 members who work for Northrop Grumman at the Vermont Service Center in St. Albans and Essex Junction, Vermont learned recently that they will soon receive large back pay checks as part of a settlement reached between the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and their former employers. Most UE members will receive checks of between $7,000 and $10,000.
The federal government subcontracts much of the clerical work performed by the U.S. Custom and Immigration Services (USCIS). UE Local 208 members work for these subcontractors, as do Local 1008 members at the California Service Center in Laguna Nigel.
In 2005, Service Center workers were employed by two companies – SI International SEIT and CSC Inc. Under a federal law called the Service Contract Act (SCA), such subcontractors are required to classify and pay workers specified wages based on the work they performe. Workers at the Vermont center long believed that they were being underpaid. The DOL investigated these past subcontractors and found that the companies had paid workers too little for much of the work they performed between December 1, 2005 and November 30, 2007.
Most Local 208 members were earning $14.54 per hour for work performed during this period. DOL found that the workers should have been paid a rate of $17.21 for some of their work. “I am ecstatic with the settlement and want to thank the UE and Senator Bernie Sanders for everything they did,” said Nadene Wetherby, a UE Local 208 member.
Both UE and Sen. Sanders (I-VT) regularly followed the investigation and encouraged the DOL to reach a quick and generous settlement for the employees. “I’m happy with the settlement,” said Lisa Stenta, a member of the UE Local 208 executive board. “People are in a place economically where they need the money. I do think it’s a shame, however, that we had to wait for money. We should have been paid these wages at the time.”
In announcing the terms of the settlement, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis said, “I am pleased that these workers finally will be properly compensated for the work they performed. The laws governing prevailing wages on federal contracts provide important protections for workers, and the Labor Department will continue to ensure companies performing work for the federal government are held to these standards.”
Sen. Sanders called upon the federal government to investigate the contractors in 2007. The senator had learned of the workers’ issues during UE’s organizing campaign at the site. Responding to news of the settlement, Sanders said. “While it took far too long for this day to come, I am pleased that the Labor Department has made this announcement and that workers will start to receive the back pay that they deserve.”
UE is now calling upon the current contractors – Stanley Associates, Northrop Grumman and Federal Working Group – to apply the DOL findings to the current work force. Despite the DOL settlement, workers at the Service Center are still receiving less pay than these should, the union believes. The DOL has begun an investigation into the current contractors. Senator Sanders agreed that the workers deserve better.
“As important as today’s victory is, this matter is still not over. I remain convinced that other contractors have illegally underpaid workers at the Vermont Service Center. I will do everything I can to actively pursue a fair resolution so all workers get what they are owed,” Sanders added. The senator is working with UE to arrange a town hall meeting in St. Albans on October 31 to address wage and other issues at the Service Center.
The DOL settlement also found that the unorganized data entry operators at the facility were underpaid. In all, 500 workers will share in a $3 million back pay settlement. Checks will be mailed to the workers between October 31 and November 30, 2009.