Nearly four years after forming a union over strong resistance, 120 workers in Washington, DC known as “Downtown SAMs” have ratified their first contract and are now full members of the National Federation of Federal Employees-IAM.
The Downtown SAMs, short for Safety, Hospitality, and Maintenance workers, are employed by the non-profit Downtown Business Improvement District (BID) Corporation in Washington, D.C. Downtown SAMs are the friendly folks in red who provide directions to tourists around train stations and landmarks. Others keep streets clean and report criminal activity in high-traffic areas. They all play an important role in keeping downtown Washington a clean, safe and pleasant place to be.
Under their new contract, Downtown SAMs will receive a general wage increase ranging from 6.5 percent to more than 10 percent over the course of the three-year agreement in addition to a $75 a month transportation subsidy. Workers will also receive 3.25 additional days of sick leave while longtime BID employees will receive an extra week of vacation leave. Finally, employees will have the protection of a just cause provision, ushering in a new era of employee rights at the Downtown BID.
“I am inspired by the resolve these men and women showed through the whole process,” said NFFE-IAM National President William Dougan. “We are proud to have negotiated a solid first contract that will give these workers much deserved increases in pay, leave and improvements in working conditions.”
Long-standing concerns over pay, leave and a fair process for complaints went unheeded, which led the SAMs to initially approach NFFE-IAM National Business Representative Roosevelt Littlejohn, Jr. about organizing.
“I was moved by the conditions these workers faced and dedicated myself to making things better,” said Littlejohn. “It was a long struggle, and we are so proud that they stuck it out and got the union contract they deserve.”
“It’s very rewarding to see a group of workers like the Downtown SAMs, who overcame every obstacle to successfully organize and then negotiate their first agreement,” said IAM Headquarters General Vice President Bob Martinez, Jr. “These men and women represent the best of the North American labor movement and we are very proud to welcome them in to our ranks.”
Special thanks go out to all those brace SAMs who worked so hard, including Jennings (JR) Brown, Chester Fenton, Ethel Frye, David Hall, Ronald Lloyd, Jesse Marlow, Darrell Stone, John Wright and the late Earl Garner. Thanks also to IAM Associate General Counsel Bill Haller, and the dedicated men and women of the Metropolitan Washington, DC Metro Labor Council, especially Jos Williams, Chris Garlock, and Alya Solomon.