After a long and tenacious struggle, 13 Victim Advocates who work under a Service Contract at Joint Base Lewis McChord have gained a bit of justice. The Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor (DOL) has just finished its investigation and reached a settlement with their previous employer, Strategic Resources, Inc. (SRI), for a back pay settlement that could be well into the millions.
The IAM first organized the group a year-and-a-half ago. But SRI had refused to recognize the union, or rather, the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) authority to certify the first election in 2012 and refused to meet or bargain. Multiple Unfair Labor Practice charges were filed.
During the process, IAM Western Territory Grand Lodge Representative Kevin Cummings and District W24 Business Representative/Organizer Wayne Thompson became aware of some pay practices that just seemed wrong and illegal. The workers were being paid $14.40 per hour, and were not getting overtime for the late night calls to the crisis line, where they sometimes have to go and get the victim to the hospital or find them safe shelter. Victim Advocates working for counties, or the federal government, were making twice the amount in many cases.
The IAM guided the employees through the complaint process and urged the DOL to look at SRI worldwide.
After an 18-month investigation, the Victim Advocates, now employed by Armed Forces Services Company (AFSC), are being notified of a settlement agreement between the DOL and SRI. Each employee is receiving back pay for wages and benefits denied them by SRI in violation of wage and hours laws. Most of the back pay awards are between $10,000 and $15,000. With nearly 200 employees involved it will likely exceed $2.5 million.
The IAM also contacted the Department of the Army, and U.S. Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Jon Tester (D-MT), both members of the Senate Armed Forces Committee, and raised the concerns about misclassification and compensation issues. It took nearly a year, but last year the U.S. Army adjusted the area wage determination for the group to $24.26.
Not only did these workers get the raise, but the U.S. Army increased the pay for all Victim Advocates under the service contract agreement — a total of 25 military bases, all enjoying the increased pay as a result of the IAM stepping in to help.
Ultimately, SRI lost the Service Contract with the government.
Just last month, a second representation election was held and the Victim Advocates voted overwhelmingly to join the IAM. The new employer, AFSC, has been very receptive and respectful to both the workers and the union since certification last month and progress is being made towards getting a Collective Bargaining Agreement in place.
“Victim Advocates are the first responders for domestic violence issues on military installations and a finer group of people is hard to find,” said Thompson. “It has truly been a pleasure to work with them.”
“We are really pleased that there is finally some compensation for all the pain and abuse these sisters went through,” said Cummings. “Wayne and I are very proud to have been a part of bringing justice to this issue. The group never gave up, and neither did the IAM. When we stand together, we win!”