Any inventory of Northern Virginia's power structure has to include Gerald T. Halpin, founder, president and CEO of WestGroup, the real estate company instrumental in the development of Tysons Corner.
Tonight, at the National Building Museum, he receives the Urban Land Institute's Lifetime Achievement Award for "commitment to the highest standards of responsible development."
Outside the museum, Halpin will be getting another honor. It's the "Scrooge Award," in the form of leaflets from members of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 32BJ, which is trying to organize about 5,000 janitorial workers in Northern Virginia. Some of them work for contractors employed by WestGroup to clean its office buildings in Tysons. The janitors, mostly Hispanic immigrants, make between $5.50 and $7.50 an hour according to the union.
SEIU says the janitors deserve better from Halpin, who has donated $1.2 million to Virginia candidates and committees--either personally or under his company's name--since 1996, campaign finance records show.
That includes about $150,000 to Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) and $75,000 to Democratic PACs since 2001. This fall, the Fairfax County Democratic Committee set up its combined campaign headquarters in a WestGroup building in Tysons, an in-kind contribution worth more than $8,000, according to finance records.
"Mr. Halpin believes in investing in the community, so why doesn't he hire cleaning contractors who pay cleaners a living wage?" Jaime Contreras, Local 32BJ Capital Area Director, said in a statement.
Halpin declined to comment today. "Let me pass this on and see if he'll get back to you," a WestGroup spokeswoman said.
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