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GEICO Dispute Crawls On, Draws In Navarro As Council Returns

The chanting procession by 16 purple-clad demonstrators during Thursday's evening rush on Wisconsin Avenue marked the latest beat in the running conflict between Chevy Chase-based insurer GEICO and the Service Employees International Union.

Representatives from the SEIU local 32BJ, which represents property service workers from the Pentagon, the State Department and other government and private offices in eight states and the District, bull-horned a refrain heard in communities around the country for years in similar disputes: "Justice for Janitors!"

A purple flier passed out by protesters took on the GEICO Gecko, noting that janitors working for a recently replaced contractor lost their jobs "due to GEICO's no so funny or cute money saving strategies." The company "decided to save a penny on their backs," it read.

With the Montgomery County council getting back into the groove this week after its summer break, council member Nancy Navarro stepped in with a letter of support, minus the loaded phrasing:

"It is my understanding that GEICO recently ended its contract with Cleaners of America (COA), a 32BJ SEIU signatory, and replaced them with Sympora Construction, who is currently declining to hire many of the displaced cleaners. In this economy, they will struggle to find another job that provides the good wages and benefits granted in their previous contract.

"With the poor state of the economy continuing to affect both employers and employees, I am writing to urge you to help minimize the negative impact on the families who rely on the quality jobs associated with GEICO's Montgomery County facilities. Many of these men and women facing unemployment desperately need their jobs to make ends meet and provide for their families."

The council member also called on GEICO "to ensure that these cleaners get their jobs back."

GEICO PR director Christine Tasher offered this emailed statement in response:

"GEICO has hired a new contractor to provide cleaning services for the Plaza building as of this month. The new contractor, Sympora, makes its own hiring decisions, like any other employer. We are pleased that Sympora opted to hire half of the staff formerly assigned to GEICO by the previous cleaning service provider."

Could be worth watching the Gecko to gauge the recession's impact on the arc of such disputes.

By Michael Laris  |  September 14, 2009; 9:00 AM ET
Categories:  Michael Laris , Montgomery County  
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How about we call IBM and make sure they don't change any outside contractors due to the possibility that some of the employees of the previous contractor may be fired.
How hypocritical are these people, especially Navarro. Yeah, let's keep the living expenses down, stop billing too much, make the cost of your products more affordable. Oh, but did we tell you, you can't do anything to cut down on your costs to operate a business? You, as a company, can simply fade out into dust, like so many others in this DEPRESSION. What about all the people who will loose their jobs because of that? I bet if they all stand out there, as well as the employees of several other big businesses that have closed up, with bullhorns screaming they want their jobs back, those companies should just resurrect themselves and hire everyone who lost their jobs back. Navarro should loose her job, that would be a start. All of you union workers, how about you give up the union, stop demanding ridiculously high wages and benefits, stop paying ridiculously high dues and compete with the rest of us for work like real people have to do and maybe you can keep your jobs!

Posted by: amypolnoff | September 12, 2009 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Hey Geico.. Move 10 miles south to a business friendly, Right To Work State - Virginia. We hate commie Unions.

Posted by: genbarlow | September 12, 2009 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Navarro is a knee jerk, PC, Dem., who is bought and paid for by the unions, what do you expect?

Posted by: VikingRider | September 12, 2009 10:20 PM | Report abuse

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