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Posted at 04:09 PM ET, 03/23/2010

Union decries Fenty, Cheh procurement plans

The Service Employees International Union 32BJ, which represents 1,500 private security officers who work for the District government, is raising doubts about efforts by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) and council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) to tighten the city's procurement process.

Following a series of well-publicized controversies over how the city doles out contracts, Fenty and Cheh are pushing for separate proposals to place additional safeguards on how the city spends money.

But more than a dozen SEIU members showed up at the John A. Wilson Building to speak out against both proposals.

Specifically, the politically influential union is pushing for provisions to the bill that would guarantee that the city only contracts with companies that are bonded.

The reason, according to SEIU leaders, is that some companies failed to pay employees in a timely fashion - or at all - after they went out of business. Last year, Hawk One security abruptly went out of business, even though its officers had been protecting schools and government buildings. Company officials blamed late payments from the city for its financial difficulties.

Union officials say some former Hawk One employees still haven't been paid for work they performed for the city last year

"Waiting for the money, I got behind in my mortgage payment. I lost my car and they said I would get the money by Christmas," said Carlene Olobaya, who said she is owed about two weeks of pay. "It didn't happen. They said we would get the money by February. It didn't happen."

Julie Karant, a spokeswoman for SEIU, said both Cheh's and Fenty's proposals are "more of the same" without the bonding provision, which would guarantee that city contractors could make a claim for unpaid wages.

"It does very little to protect District workers and taxpayers," Karant said.

A spokesman for Cheh, chairwoman of the Committee on Government Operations and the Environment, said she will be considering the union's request before her committee votes on the proposals.

-- Tim Craig

By Washington Post Editors  |  04:09 PM ET, 03/23/2010

Categories:  Tim Craig, Tim Craig, Tim Craig, Tim Craig, Tim Craig

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