Downtown Chicago security officers rallied for a pay increase Tuesday, a week before their first day of bargaining with the Building Owners and Managers Association for a new union contract. Progress Illinois was there for the rally, held at the Thompson Center.
Security officers represented by SEIU* Local 1 rallied at the Thompson Center in downtown Chicago Tuesday afternoon, kicking off their campaign for better wages and benefits in upcoming contract negotiations.
Some 2,500 security officers who oversee downtown Chicago buildings such as the Willis Tower, the John Hancock Center and the Chicago Board of Trade will see their union contract expire April 21. Bargaining with the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) is set begin next Tuesday, and the officers are calling for a minimum wage of $15.
The starting wage for SEIU-represented security officers is $10.50 an hour, and most make an hourly wage less than $15, according to union officials.
"We want to get all of our members over $15 before this contract's up," said SEIU Local 1 President Tom Balanoff, adding that security officers also want their insurance and pensions protected.
Teresa Sanchez, 51, is a security officer at 161 N. Clark St., a stone's throw away from the Thompson Center.
A security officer for 18 years, Sanchez's wages are on the higher end of the pay scale. She earns $21.55 an hour.
"We want to get everybody at the same pay level," she said. "And we want to make sure that security gets the respect that we deserve."
Balanoff spoke to the important role security officers play when it comes to public safety.
"These workers do a very crucial job, and oftentimes we don't really think much about it," Balanoff said. "We all understand this city. We all understand how violent it is. We all understand how much more violent our world has become, and security officers are really the frontline workers, oftentimes, in terrorist situations or fires or other problems. They play a crucial role. A lot of times people don't understand the crucial role they play until there's a crisis."
Chicago Alds. Roderick Sawyer (6th), Ricardo Munoz (22nd) and Scott Waguespack (32nd) rallied with the workers, who held signs reading, "Good Jobs Strengthen Our Economy." The aldermen are members of the Progressive Reform Caucus, which has advocated for a $15 minimum wage in the city and other pro-worker measures.
"We understand how difficult it is to do your job," Sawyer told the security officers. "You are, as stated earlier, the first responders. You're the ones that put your lives on the line everyday to secure us as we're traversing through these buildings downtown, and all throughout the city of Chicago, and we respect you and support you in your efforts to have a living wage, adequate benefits, a decent retirement. ... We need to let these owners and these multimillionaire and billionaire individuals know that they need to pay you a living wage, a fair wage, and institute a fair contact for all here today."
Waguespack added, "We're gonna send a message to BOMA: As long as you're here, we want to see equal pay. We want to see good pay. We want to see fair wages to the people who are the backbone of this city."
Here is more from Waguespack and Balanoff:
Baylin Miller, 21, is a security at the Illinois Center, which includes two towers at 111 E. Wacker Drive and 233 N. Michigan Ave.
Miller became a security officer in December and earns $12.85 an hour. Miller said he and his wife are expecting their second child in June, and a $15 minimum wage would allow his family to live comfortably and "still save money and not live paycheck to paycheck."
"It's a struggle," he said of making ends meet on $12.85 an hour. "And you know, we have these multimillionaire owners that own these buildings and they want to cut positions and don't want to pay us what we deserve to protect their buildings."
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