The hardship Rafael Sanchez experienced through the sudden loss of his janitorial job could have been eased by a bill now being considered by the Montgomery County Council, he said Tuesday.
Sanchez, of Silver Spring, was one of five people to testify at a public hearing Tuesday on a bill by Councilwoman Valerie Ervin (D-Dist. 5) of Silver Spring that would provide 90 days of job protection for some service workers when their employer's service contract is terminated. The bill will go to the Health and Human Services committee at a later date.
"If this law had been in place then, all of those problems could have been avoided," Sanchez testified in Spanish. An English translation of his testimony was provided in writing to the council.
When the contractor Sanchez was working for in 2010 lost its cleaning contract, he testified that the new contractor immediately fired him and his co-workers, giving him only a few days notice before his income disappeared.
"This caused lots of stress and financial hardship to me and my family," Sanchez said. "I have a family to support. Without that job, it was almost impossible to get by."
Situations like those of Sanchez are why Jamie Contreras of the Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ asked the council to support the bill. He noted that Washington, D.C., has a similar law in place.
The bill would require certain contractors, but not those awarded by county, state, municipal or federal governments, to retain the employees of the previous contractor.
W. Shaun Pharr, senior vice president of government affairs for the Apartment and Office Building Association of Metropolitan Washington, testified against the bill.
In his written testimony, he noted that when contracts are put out for competitive bid, quality and cost are often fundamental reasons why a new contractor is sought.
"The bill would require a new contractor to, at least initially, hire every employee of the previous contractor," he wrote. "Yet, in many cases, it is the performance of the work force which has dictated the need for change."
Sanchez testified that prior to losing his job he had always received positive evaluations from the previous contractor.
Councilman Marc B. Elrich (D-At large) of Takoma Park, a cosponsor of the bill, said he did not support the county subsidizing wages through social services.
To the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, the bill is fundamentally unfair, favoring one group of employees over others, who would not receive its protection and limiting competition among contractors, Gigi Godwin, Chamber president and chief executive officer testified.
Councilman George L. Leventhal (D-At large) of Takoma Park questioned why governments were exempt from the bill.
Ervin was email@example.com