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Many workers find a way to get to the job, even in a blizzard

By Carol Morello and N.C. Aizenman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Jeff Campbell has been at his job as a security officer since Friday, sleeping in a chair and eating military MREs. Andre Wye left home at 4 a.m. Monday to drive 25 scary, slippery miles to the supermarket where he's a cashier. Sia Gbolie deposited her teenage son with a neighbor and camped out with a friend who lives near her job as a home care nurse.

In the aftermath of the weekend snowstorm, federal government offices closed, courts took only emergency cases and many private companies stayed shut.

But being snowbound was not an option for the army of service workers who staff the area's restaurants and hotels, guard its offices and government buildings, restock grocery shelves and clean houses. Many went to extraordinary lengths to get to work during and after the storm, driven by dedication -- and their need for a paycheck.

"The trap for many workers is one of no work, no pay," said Joslyn Williams, head of the Metropolitan Washington Council, speaking from his home since the umbrella organization for local labor unions didn't open Monday. "Unlike white-collar workers, they've got to find a way in."

Some managers were taking it upon themselves to get their workers to the job.

Ever since the storm began, Stuart Long, owner of the Hawk 'n' Dove bar on Pennsylvania Avenue, has arrived at work, looked around to see who's missing and driven to the suburbs in his Toyota Tundra to fetch them.

"They try to get to work, but sometimes you have to go get them," he said. "I'm going to have to do it till the surface buses start running."

Nearly impassable roads were not necessarily a deterrence.

Wye, 45, who lives in Prince George's County, slowly guided his car in the hours before dawn Monday along deserted roads that were slick with ice. A few small hills posed such a challenge he had to reverse and try again, needing a running start to get the momentum that would carry him up and over. The 25-mile drive to the McLean Safeway where he works took two hours longer than usual.

The cashiers swapped tales of what it took to get to work.

"I was the only one who had to drive backwards," Wye said.

Gbolie came into the city Friday with an overnight bag.

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