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This year's graduating class of SAMs. (Downtown BID)

Bright and early tomorrow morning, the Downtown Business Improvement District was scheduled to release its annual State of Downtown Report, a splashy event at the Newseum typically attended by the city’s development mucketymucks. But in the last few days, they learned that the event would be protested by some of their own staff: The red-suited Safety/Hospitality and Maintenance workers, known as SAMs. In 2009, they voted for a contract with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which says the BID is fighting their ability to join.

For its part, the BID says they don’t oppose their workers’ desire to unionize. Rather, says spokeswoman Karyn LeBlanc, they heard that there had been intimidation in the close vote, so were appealing the original vote and asking for a new one. That fight is still working its way through the D.C. Court of Appeals. In the mean time, they decided to avoid an awkward morning.

“We felt it would be an uncomfortable situation to put our guests and our participants in,” LeBlanc said.

I’ll let the Post fill in the details later.


UPDATE, 1:00 p.m. – OK, I’ll fill in some details.

A representative from the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers passed along this April 4, 2011 decision by the National Labor Relations Board that dismissed the BID’s claims of union intimidation. The BID appealed that ruling in D.C.’s Court of Appeals.

The union says that the SAMs are unsatisfied with their employer’s sick leave policy, which affords them 52 hours of sick leave per year, plus between 80 and 120 hours of annual leave, depending on how long they’ve been employed. As for wages, the BID says that maintenance SAMs make $12.18 an hour, or $13.18 an hour for more involved assignments like hanging baskets, landscaping, vacuuming and sweeping. The Safety/Hospitality SAMs make $15.35 an hour.

Here’s the union’s backgrounder on the election.