Caregivers at three of VMT’s publicly funded healthcare businesses in Washington have united to form unions — and each time the company has mounted aggressive campaigns to stop them. Although the workers in all three cases voted for the union, VMT has refused every time to settle a fair first contract.
VMT’s behavior is what one would expect from a vicious employer in a right-to-work state. But the residents of Washington, one of America’s most progressive cities, deserve better from a D.C. contractor.
Denying Justice at J.B. Johnson
On February 1, 2010, the caregivers of the District-owned J.B. Johnson Nursing Center voted 165-0 to form a union with 1199SEIU. Their unanimous vote was born of serious concern for the well-being of J.B. Johnson residents and deep frustration with the management practices of VMT, which has operated the home for Washington, D.C., since 1995.
But now, more than a year and a half after that unanimous vote, VMT and its CEO, Solanges Vivens, are still refusing to settle a fair contract with the facility’s caregivers.
Even as the workers organized, VMT took away $3.35 an hour in each worker’s health and welfare benefits and stripped them of a floating holiday as well. VMT also forced caregivers into a costly health insurance plan — causing many of them to forfeit coverage — and completely eliminated their sick leave. VMT refused to compensate workers for their accrued leave, with some losing hundreds of hours of leave that they’d earned.
Now that the workers have formed their union, VMT has acted repeatedly to thwart their efforts to settle a fair first contract. VMT has offered no raises in negotiations yet gave bonuses to workers outside the bargaining process, just one of the actions that has prompted multiple Unfair Labor Practice charges by the union. VMT has engaged in minimal bargaining since December 2010, leaving the negotiations at a stalemate.