Fort Lee barber strike ends after almost 4 months, contractor agrees to worker pay demands
FORT LEE, Va. (Tribune News Service) — The prolonged strike between barbers at Fort Lee and the contractor which employs them has finally come to its conclusion.
The Contractor, Mo.-based Sheffield Barbers LLC, has agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement that will reinstate the pay rate barbers were making before the contractor began managing the shops in 2019.
Barbers have historically made 53% of the price for each haircut. When Sheffield took over, it began paying barbers 53% for a cut costing $11.25, the price from 2017. Barbers made this rate as the price per haircut was increased to $13.25. The discrepancy reduced some barbers’ wages by $1000 per month.
Under the new agreement, barbers will start earning 53% of the $13.25 posted price. If that price increases before 2025 those barbers will earn their percentage based on the increased price. This agreement went into effect on Oct. 25.
“We are not stuck with a wage from the past anymore, but a wage that will make for a better future,” said veteran and barber Eugene Harris.
About 20 barbers went on an unfair labor practices strike that started on July 4, after Sheffield Barbers made their last, best and final offer of a $0.06 increase per haircut. Elected officials and other labor unions have joined the barbers during their strike.
“Those extra dollars add up,” said barber Michael Kates II. “Staying on strike for so many months had its challenges. It was worth it, though, because now I’m earning a fair wage and I don’t have to leave a place that I love.”
The Army and Airforce Exchange Services awarded Sheffield Barbers the contract for the Fort Lee barbershops in 2019 and, due to the strike, Sheffield Barbers was in danger of losing the contract.
The barbers’ strike was one of the first in a series of strikes happening across the country.
“We are seeing a nationwide surge of solidarity among workers, but I cannot say enough about the strength and solidarity of our barbers,” said Local 572 Business Manager Sonia Vasquez Luna. “No matter how tired they were or how hot it was, they were determined to win and they succeeded.”
Along with the barbers, Local 572 also represents janitorial, housekeeping, gas station, and food service employees on the base.
©2021 The Progress-Index (Petersburg, Va.)
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.