Union Security Guards Reach Deal After Staging One-Day Strike

Twin Cities security guards represented by SEIU Local 26 reported this morning that they had reached a tentative agreement with their employers late Thursday night after the remaining six subcontractors settled with the union, which represents 2,000 security officers.

“We are exhausted, but elated,” Local 26 security officer Elena Krelberg said in a press statement. “We won because we all stood together. Standing shoulder to shoulder with our community, security officers and janitors together won the best contracts in the history of the local service sector industry.”

The security guards had launched a one-day strike on Wednesday, including a demonstration in front of Wells Fargo Center in downtown Minneapolis. They provide building security for several national corporations, including Wells Fargo, Target and U.S. Bank.

The work stoppage came after 11th-hour employment contract negotiations between the union and the security firms fell apart early Wednesday. The security companies — G4S, AlliedBarton Security Services, Securitas, Viking Security, ABM Security and Whelan — act as subcontractors for Wells Fargo, Target, U.S. Bank and the other large corporations.

“We’re asking our employers to give us a fair contract for the officers who protect the multi-million-dollar commercial office real estate of Minneapolis and St. Paul,” said Javier Morillo, President of SEIU Local 26. “What our members are feeling is what so many Americans are feeling. These corporations are making record profits, and it’s time for the people to share in that.”

Last night’s agreement marks the first contract for 1,000 suburban security guards who formed their union with SEIU Local 26 in January 2011 and have been working to settle a contract ever since. According to a press release issued by the union, the tentative agreement will:

• Protect hundreds of full-time jobs that would have been converted to part-time and resulted in lower wages and loss of health care and other benefits.

• Increase hourly wages by $1.20 over three years. The wage increase helps bring security officers out of poverty and, according to SEIU calculations, pumps an additional $18 million a year into the local community.

• Ensure employer-based healthcare coverage for the first time ever for suburban security guards.

• Grant security guards one additional day of sick time.

• Create the “Senior Officer” job classification, which security guards say will help professionalize their industry.

Not all SEIU Local 26 security officers went on strike Wednesday. After 14 hours of contract negotiations that started Tuesday afternoon, the union reached an agreement with one subcontractor — St. Paul-based American Security — whose security officers work primarily in St. Paul buildings. According to SEIU, the other employers walked away from negotiations before reaching an agreement.

Meanwhile, 4,000 local janitors—also represented by SEIU Local 26 and whose contract also expired December 31 — reached a three-year deal with their employers on Saturday that includes pay raises and improved health care benefits. Both the security officers and janitors had voted earlier this month to authorize a strike if negotiations failed.

The security officers who picketed outside Wells Fargo Center Wednesday chanted, “What do we want? Contracts! When do we want it? now!” They had been working without a contract since the previous one expired December 31. According to Morillo, the workers were seeking wage increases, more affordable health care, and job safety provisions as part of a new contract. SEIU Local 26 security workers make $12.30 an hour on average.

Five years ago SEIU security officers in the Twin Cities launched their first strike in history, winning what Morillo called “a great contract”. Now with the economic recession over, he wants mega corporations to share some of their wealth.

“So many Americans are working harder and making less money,” Morillo said. “The commercial office real estate market in Minnesota has rebounded. These members protect their wealth every day. It’s time to spread that wealth to all of the community.”

–30–

Jacob Wheeler

In addition to shooting videos for The UpTake, Jacob Wheeler is a contributing editor at the progressive political magazine In These Times, publishes the Glen Arbor Sun in his native Michigan, and authored "Between Light and Shadow," a recent book about the Guatemalan adoption industry. Wheeler's stories have appeared in such magazines as the Utne Reader, Earth Island Journal, Rotarian and Teaching Tolerance magazine, and newspapers including the San Francisco Chronicle and Christian Science Monitor. He speaks fluent Spanish, German and Danish.

Comments are closed.