Quick Hit Ashlee Rezin Friday April 12th, 2013, 8:58pm

Amid Contract Negotiations, SEIU Security Officers Rally For Higher Wages (VIDEO)

In anticipation of next week’s economic bargaining, members of SEIU* Local 1 staged a protest for higher wages in downtown Chicago Thursday.

It was the third day of bargaining between SEIU and the Building and Owners Management Association (BOMA), and the two parties were able to come to an agreement and complete the language portion of contract negotiations. Next week, the union plans to introduce an economic package that includes a “decent raise increase” during contract negotiations.

More than 100 union members called for higher wages as they rallied at the Thompson Center and marched through downtown Chicago.

“I want to be able to have money to put aside for my grandson, he and his mother should not have to suffer,” said Denise Dawson, 60, a security officer and member of the bargaining committee for SEIU Local 1.

She said Thursday was a “tough” day at the table with BOMA, and doubted wage negotiations would be easy.

“If BOMA stood this hard on language issues that don’t cost them a dime, what do you think they are going to do when it comes to wages,” she asked.

Contracts for more than 2,000 of Chicago’s security officers represented by SEIU Local 1 are set to expire April 21. Bargaining began last week and two more meetings are scheduled for next week. Union representatives said they aim to complete negotiations by next Thursday so they may present a proposal to members for ratification by Saturday, April 20.

Dawson, a resident of Chicago’s West Side neighborhood of Austin, works at Boeing International Headquarters, 100 N. Riverside Plaza, and makes $13.25 per hour. She has been a member of SEIU for 32 years.

“It’s not right that these executives make so much money and we’re down here struggling,” she said. “I’m tired of being part of the 99 percent, I want to make a better life for me and my family and I can’t do that without a wage increase.”

Dawson spoke at yesterday’s rally with Tom Balanoff, president of SEIU Local 1. Here’s more from the demonstration:

In preparation for next week’s economic negotiations, David Hollis, 51, a security officer of 12 years and member of the SEIU Local 1 bargaining committee, said the union presented BOMA with economic indicators  at Thursday's meeting that revealed how close majority of the workers are to the poverty line.

“We presented a lot of facts about how our starting wage of $10 per hour is not enough, more and more people are struggling just to get by,” he said.

Hollis makes $12.65 an hour at the Burnett Building, 35 W. Wacker Dr., and says he thinks the union “got through to (BOMA).”

Balanoff said the union “made some real progress,” but “next week’s bargain is what we’ve all been waiting for.”

During next week's economic bargaining, Balanoff said the union would be focusing on three things: making sure insurance stays intact and does not see any changes; making sure BOMA continues to fund the pension plan; and “most importantly,” getting a wage increase for union members.

Balanoff wouldn’t reveal how much the union will ask for, but said it was a “significant raise that’s going to have an impact on our members’ lives.”

“The security officers do a very important, and very dangerous job here in the city, and they’re really not compensated the way they should be,” he said.

Jimmy Felton, 56, a security guard and member of SEIU Local 1 for 11 years said it was “devastating” that his “brothers and sisters” in the union have to protect downtown skyscrapers and go home to deprived neighborhoods.

Making $15.56 per hour, Felton said he was fortunate to work in a residential building, but thinks it’s a disgrace what some of his coworkers are subjected to on the job, such as standing all day and being asked to sweep the floors.

“We need to change the image of security so we are valued more,” he said.

Here’s more from Felton and yesterday’s protest:

*The SEIU Illinois Council sponsors this website.

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