Carrying signs that read “Good Jobs, Safe Chicago” and chanting about higher wages, security officers represented by the SEIU* Local 1 rallied at the Thompson Center in downtown Chicago Thursday for a pay increase.
Thursday was the first day of bargaining with the Building and Owners Management Association (BOMA) for a new union contract. The rally, attended by approximately 70 union members, was also in observation of the 45th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assasination.
“Dr. King lived his life, and lost his life, for a just society,” said Michelle Jackson, a security officer of seven years at 550 W. Jackson Blvd., in downtown Chicago.
“We need to do our part and start with working together to create better jobs for our families and our neighborhoods.”
Jackson makes $12.35 hourly and has two kids in college and one grandson. She is a member of SEIU Local 1’s bargaining team and said contract negotiations "will be a tough fight.”
“I had to work two jobs while my kids grew up so they could have the opportunity to succeed. I had to miss football games and family dinners to make sure there was food on the table,” she said at the rally. “I’m still working two jobs today so my kids can go to college and my grandkids can go to preschool. That’s why I’m working to continue Dr. King’s fight to continue good jobs.”
More than 2,000 of Chicago’s security officers represented by SEIU Local 1 will see their contracts expire on April 21. Bargaining kicked off Thursday and four additional meetings are scheduled throughout April. The first meeting discussed language proposals in the contract.
According to Tom Balanoff, president of the SEIU Illinois Council and Local 1, the union is demanding “a decent raise increase” and that benefits and health insurance stay in place.
“We’re not going to start to revive our economy until workers start getting paid a fair wage,” said Balanoff. “It’s wrong in our country if you’re an adult and you wake up and go to work every morning, but you still struggle to feed your family and afford a roof over your head — more and more workers every day are losing the American dream.”
Balanoff said the union has determined how much of a wage increase they’d like to bargain for, but said he would announce it “at a more appropriate time.”
“We believe if we bargain in good faith and they bargain in good faith, then we’ll be able to come to a settlement without a strike,” he said. “But if it comes to that, we’re always prepared.”
Here’s more from the rally and Balanoff:
SEIU is planning to rally again before April 21, with a demonstration scheduled for April 11 at 3:30 p.m. at the Thompson Center in downtown Chicago.
David Hollis, a member of the bargaining committee for SEIU Local 1, said downtown security officers are “underpaid and underappreciated."
Hollis, a security officer for 12 years, works at 35 W. Wacker Dr. He makes $12.65 an hour and says he and most of his co-workers are living just above the poverty level.
On average, SEIU’s security officers make about $10 an hour, or $20,400 annually.
“We’re pretty much the frontline defense for emergencies in these downtown buildings,” said Hollis, who noted he was prepared to “take to the streets” if a settlement is not reached.
“We’d like to be able to share in the American dream and maybe save a little money, see our families, or take a vacation,” he said. “We deserve a piece of the pie.”
Here’s more from an SEIU Local 1 member who participated in the rally, Alvina Kendircks, who has worked as a security guard at 71 S. Wacker Dr. for six years: