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Montgomery County Bill Would Protect Low-Income Workers

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Montgomery County Council members are squaring off over a bill that would protect low wage service workers in the county, although it likely won't be addressed during the council's current legislative session.

The bill would guarantee job protection for low-wage service workers, such as office cleaners and security guards, when an employer's service contract is terminated. A change in contractors often results in sudden unemployment for many low wage service workers, according to Jaime Contreras of Service Employees International Union 32BJ. 

"The contractor came in; they didn't want to talk with us. They brought in their brand new crew, lowered their wages took away their benefits, and the workers already employed there lost their jobs," he says, recounting one instance. 

Council members Valerie Ervin, Craig Rice and Nancy Navarro are supporting the Displaced Worker Protection Act, which would require property owners would have to retain employees for 90 days after dismissing a contractor. If a new contractor was hired to replace the old one,the new contractor would be required to hire those employees.

On Monday, the group joined members of the SEIU to urge passage of the bill. The measure was pulled off Tuesday's council agenda, however, by Council Chair Roger Berliner, who said it's wrong to offer protection to a small subset of low-income workers and not to others. 

Ervin, however, cited a different reason for Berliner's move. "He did it because of pressure he received from the county Chamber of Commerce," she said. 

Berliner says he's simply not convinced the bill address a serious problem in the county. The bill will remains in committee as the council begins its five-week summer recess.

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