Areas of Arlington National Cemetery are being neglected amid the refusal of grounds-keeping contractors to negotiate with their striking workers. A section of the cemetery lawn which had been removed and was slated for re-seeding remains unplanted, while areas in between tombstones have become over-grown and neglected, according to Larry Doggett, Business Manager of Local 572 of the Laborers’ International Union, which represents the grounds-keepers. The workers struck Aug. 15 to protest delays by their employers in negotiating a contract and the firing and discipline of workers who refused overtime. “Veterans and their cemetery deserve contractors who put getting the job done ahead of greed,” said Doggett, himself a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. “It’s time for the Army to put the good of the cemetery first, and tell this contractor to deal with its striking employees.”
The 30 members of Local 572 of the Laborers’ International Union have sought a contract for nine months with their joint employers, Davey Tree Expert Co. and Greenleaf Services. The workers are asking for modest wage increases and paid sick leave. On August 1, workers engaged in concerted action, refusing to work overtime to protest perceived favoritism in the assignment of hours. The workers assert that anti-union employees get steady hours throughout the work season, while pro-union employees see hours rise and fall. The employers placed derogatory write-ups in 15 workers’ files and fired one, though the walk-out is protected under federal law. The workers have won the support of Arlington County Board members, who joined them on their picket line in their first strike on July 19. Since May 2015, when the workers voted to join the union, they have been seeking to negotiate a boost to their average $13 an hour wage and for paid sick leave, but bargaining sessions have been repeatedly delayed or cancelled. Davey Tree Co., based in Ohio, touts itself as the largest tree care company with 2014 revenues of $790 million.