Bikeshare workers turn up volume on wage complaints
Several current and former Capital Bikeshare employees delivered petitions to city and company officials on Wednesday, applying new pressure as they call for a response to their allegations of unfair pay practices.
Capital Bikeshare, which is operated privately through a contract with the District's transportation department, is under investigation by the U.S. Labor Department's Wage and Hour Division for alleged violations of a federal law requiring District government contractors to pay employees certain wages and benefits.
The workers — who were joined Wednesday by employees of the Employment Justice Center, Jobs with Justice, Our D.C. and Mintwood Media — claim that they have not received proper benefits and wages from Capital Bikeshare, a subsidiary of Alta Bicycle Share of Portland, Ore.
"It's not a bad job, it's not a hard job. I take pride in my job," said Zeek Manago, a current Bikeshare employee. "I want what's owed to me."
Some workers had complaints unrelated to the Labor Department probe. Khalil Brown, a former employee, said his supervisors never scheduled him for work after winter 2012, despite saying he still had a job.
"I didn't get laid off, I didn't get fired and I didn't quit," Brown said. "Never got a call, never got an e-mail saying, 'Come to work.'"
The group of 17 first delivered a packet of letters and a petition with about 1,400 signatures to Eric Gilliland, director of Capital Bikeshare, while chanting and clapping, "Play fair, Bikeshare!"
"We know you have the power to do the right thing," John Farmer, a current employee, said to Gilliland.
"We'll make it work," Gilliland replied.
After a small news conference where former employee Anibal Apunte read a statement about the group's allegations, the activists tried to approach transportation department officials at the Frank D. Reeves Municipal Center on 14th Street NW. But they learned that location did not house the department's top managers.
When they reached the agency's executive offices, on M Street SE, a customer service employee took the petition and told the activists it would "get to the right people."
In a statement, the transportation department said it is aware of the workers' allegations, as are officials in Arlington and Alexandria, where Capital Bikeshare also operates: "The jurisdictions are following this closely and await any outcomes from the U.S. Department of Labor."
Alta Vice President Mia Birk said in a separate statement Wednesday that the company is "working diligently" with federal investigators to provide requested information and has "undertaken an exhaustive review" of its contracts at Capital Bikeshare and other locations "to further ensure we are treating our employees with the respect they deserve."
"From rebalancers and bike mechanics, to our station technicians and support staff, we value the hard work of each and every employee and the contribution they have made to our successes," she said. "A bike share system is nothing without the staff to make it work."
A final resolution of the investigation, she said, "will depend on the Department of Labor."
Food trucks are here to stay
Updated 3:45 p.m. with comment from Kline and Ribeiro
After more than four years of sometimes rancorous debate, food trucks on Tuesday made a major advance toward becoming a government-sanctioned, street-legal fixture of the District's culinary scene.
The D.C. Council voted unanimously Tuesday to complete the approval process for regulations setting out where and how food trucks may operate in the city. Since 2009, restaurants on wheels have operated under ad hoc arrangements while industry advocates hammered out permanent rules with city officials and representatives from brick-and-mortar restaurants, some of which have strongly opposed the food trucks' proliferation.
After the vote Tuesday, however, all sides appeared satisfied with the final product. "I think it was a great team effort," said council member Vincent B. Orange (D-At Large), who hammered out the final compromise. "We're ready to move forward."
The approved regulations create special "mobile vending zones" in the most popular downtown vending locations where trucks can apply by lottery for guaranteed spots. Some final tweaks to the rules -- shrinking a truck-free "buffer" area around the vending zones; easing a restriction on where trucks could park outside the zones; clarifying the size of the fines levied on violators — passed with little debate Tuesday.
Mayor Vincent C. Gray could veto the bill before a June 22 deadline, throwing the matter back into limbo, but a Gray administration member not authorized to speak publicly on the matter said that is unlikely. "We are currently reviewing the amendments and changes to the regulation," said spokesman Pedro Ribeiro, in the official administration comment on the matter.
Che Ruddell-Tabisola, political director of the Food Truck Association of Metropolitan Washington, said that — assuming Gray doesn't stand in the way of the compromise — the industry's focus will now turn toward making sure the new regulations work as intended.
That goes as well for traditional restaurants, said Andrew J. Kline of the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington. 'We're certainly pleased to see an overall scheme of regulation," he said. "We needed a framework; we didn't have one before."
All concerned said they are pleased to be moving on to a new phase.
"It was certainly a longer process than anyone anticipated," said Ruddell-Tabisola, who is also the proprietor of the BBQ Bus. "We're not over the finish line yet, but I'm certainly happy we'll be able to get back to selling barbecue sandwiches."
'Dark things' in Forest Hills
Update, June 19: This post originally said Mannina had planned an "assignation" with his co-worker, but there is no basis in court filings or testimony to characterize the June 5 encounter as anything other than a get-together of platonic friends.
What accounts for a rare violent crime in the leafy Forest Hills neighborhood of upper Northwest? Details revealed in court Monday in the case of a shocking home invasion and sexual assault tell the tale of
an assignation a day off gone very wrong. The victim and suspect Paul Mannina, co-workers at the U.S. Labor Department, "planned to skip work and spend the day together" on June 5, the Post's Keith Alexander reports. But when Mannina arrived at the woman's home, authorities said, he "pushed his way past his colleague's front door, handcuffed her, sexually assaulted her and left her with such extensive injuries that she required surgery to implant a plate in her face." At a preliminary hearing Monday, Superior Court Judge Robert I. Richter heard testimony from neighbors who called Mannina a "family man," and a detective who said Mannina had he recently been hospitalized for a "change in his mental state." But Richter ordered him held in D.C. jail: "There are some dark things floating out there," he said.
Update, 10:42 a.m.: Mannina was found dead this morning in his D.C. jail cell, Alexander reports.
In other news:
Top Office of Campaign Finance lawyer has second job, did not disclose it as required (WAMU-FM)
Virgin Islands delegate will give back Jeff Thompson campaign money (Loose Lips)
Eleanor Holmes Norton is still holding on to her Jeff Thompson money (WAMU-FM)
Vincent Gray says city will review the work Thompson's erstwhile firm has done for the city (WRC-TV)
Frederick Douglass statue's Capitol debut will be off limits to most D.C. residents (HuffPo)
"Technical glitch" disables D.C. students' Metro passes (Post)
With any luck, the food truck regulation fight ends today (WBJ)
Researchers identify D.C.'s "transitioning" neighborhoods — including Barry Farm, Marshall Heights and Deanwood (WBJ)
Sorry, there will be no official list of doctors willing to prescribe marijuana (Washingtonian)
Police investigate attempted murder-suicide in Petworth (Post)
Benning Gardens residents unfazed by shootings (WUSA-TV)
What David Catania's 2013 education reform push has in common with Julius Hobson's 1977 education reform push (HuffPo)
A thorough critique of the Catania reform bills (Answer Sheet)
Time to get the zoning rewrite moving already (GGW)
Thomas Penfield Jackson was the rare judge who believed in his personal right of free speech (Legal Times)
D.C. Chamber's study undermining living-wage bill is bunk, advocates say (DCFPI)
The bill is "a matter of basic fairness to the people of the nation's capital," Vincent Orange says (Post letter)
Ten buildings that changed D.C., for better and worse (Parchment)
Joe Mamo reworks his Bloomingdale development proposal (WBJ)
Meet Paco Fimbres, Vince Gray's man on the streets (Borderstan)
Thanks to Gilbert Arenas, the Wizards will probably keep on being the Wizards (Sports Bog)
Union Market gets on summer movies craze (Post)
U Street city lot could get open-air market until redevelopment takes place (WBJ)
Watch cyclist get just deserts (DCist)
D.C.'s best wifi network names (PoPville)
Marion Barry is Mr. YOLO (Reliable Source)
Primary election date change proposal appears to be dead
The city's top elected officials held high hopes that next year's primary election might be moved from its current date of April 1, via legislation introduced in April by D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) and subsequently endorsed by Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D).
But with at least three of five members of the council's Government Operations Committee currently opposing the change, it looks as though next year's primary day will remain April Fools'.
Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5), the panel's chairman and a co-introducer of the bill, confirmed that the measure has insufficient support on his panel. He said Monday that if he can't get two additional votes by Friday, he won't move the bill.
Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), David A. Catania (I-At Large) and Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) oppose the bill. A staff member for Vincent Orange (D-At Large) declined to discuss his position on the matter.
Cheh, notably, wrote the 2011 bill that shifted the primary from September to April in response to a federal law requiring local election authorities to allow sufficient time for overseas voters to cast absentee ballots. The reasons she cited then for moving it all the way up to April — to allow a unified presidential and local primary, and to prevent interference with council budget negotiations — remain just as valid today, her Chief of Staff Jonathan Willingham said Monday.
Bowser, who is likely to be on the primary ballot as a mayoral candidate, said Monday she believed the date should remain in April to maintain "predictability for voters" — not out of any perceived advantage for her mayoral campaign, which she said "will be ready whatever the date is."
Mendelson said he still plans to talk to members in hopes of getting the bill moving. Asked whether he'd consider pursuing other avenues to change the date — such as through an amendment to another bill or emergency legislation that does not have to move through committee — he said, "I haven't thought that far."
If the date remains April 1, the practical effect is that the election is now barely more than nine months away. That's bad news in particular for Gray, who has yet to indicate whether he will seek a second term.
Vote on living wage bill delayed a week
The highly pitched debate over whether the city's largest retailers should be required to pay their employees more will continue at least one more week.
Supporters had hoped to have the D.C. Council take the first of two votes Tuesday on the Large Retailer Accountability Act, a bill that would mandate that all retailers whose parent companies do $1 billion or more in annual sales pay their D.C. employees at least $12.50 an hour — well above the District's $8.25 minimum wage.
But Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) said Monday that the first vote won't come until next week. "I think there's some feeling we should follow the normal legislative process," he said.
The move gives business leaders who oppose the bill extra time to water it down or kill it entirely.
The stakes were raised considerably last month, when a council committee amended the bill to greatly expand its potential impact. The original draft of the bill limited its impact not only to billion-dollar retailers, but to those who operate locations of 75,000 square feet or more — language calibrated to affect "big box" retailers like Wal-Mart, which is planning to open six stores in the city in the coming months.
The amended bill stands to affect big companies with small retailer footprints; Vincent B. Orange (D-At Large), who added the amendment, specifically named Apple and Nike as potential targets. The change has mobilized a business community that already opposed the bill but is now waging a fierce lobbying and public relations campaign to kill it. James C. Dinegar, chief executive of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, said in a Washington Post op-ed today that the measure is "anti-competitive, counterproductive, arbitrary and just plain bad policy."
The D.C. Chamber of Commerce, among others, have pushed for an additional hearing to explore the expanded bill's impacts, but it is not clear whether that will happen before the meeting next
Tuesday Wednesday. Mendelson said the decision to hold an additional hearing is Orange's, and James Brown, Orange's chief of staff, declined to comment on whether that is a possibility.
Supporters of the bill, which include organized labor and advocates for low-income residents, argue that retail wages are so low that workers remain mired in poverty and reliant on government programs. Billion-dollar corporations are able to pay their workers better wages, they say, often pointing to Costco as an example of a megaretailer whose starting wage is in excess of $11 an hour.
Living wage supporters have been actively lobbying as well; on Friday, a group of more than a dozen backers visited council offices in the John A. Wilson Building.