This is the third and final week of collective bargaining before the SEIU* Local 1 security officers’ contracts are set to expire, and despite a thunderstorm and flood warnings, union members gathered at the Thompson Center late Wednesday afternoon to rally for higher wages.
“You’re sending a very strong message today, that no matter what the weather is like you still demand a good contract,” said Efrain Elias, a union representative for SEIU Local 1, to a group of approximately 50 demonstrators.
“We are not going to let a little rain slow us up,” he said.
With contracts set to expire on April 21, bargaining talks between SEIU and the Building and Owners Management Association (BOMA) continued past 5 p.m. yesterday evening. This week the union presented its economic package, which included a wage increase for more than 2,000 of Chicago’s security officers.
Negotiations started April 5, but according to Tom Balanoff, president of SEIU Local 1, this is the week union members have “all been waiting for.”
Union representatives hope to present a proposal to its members by Saturday.
“BOMA is crying broke, they claim they have no money for extra stuff,” said Terry Wade, 54, a member of the bargaining team for SEIU Local 1, who broke away from the meeting to attend the rally.
A security guard at 1 N. State St., Wade has done the job for nearly a decade and makes $12.65 per hour. He travels from Gary, Indiana, to work everyday and said he doesn’t make enough money to live in Illinois.
“We’re not asking for much, we just want a fair wage increase,” he said, noting that if he received a wage increase he may be able to move back to his home state where most of his family still resides.
Wade wouldn’t reveal how much of a raise the union has asked for, but said it was a “decent amount.” He announced to demonstrators at the rally that SEIU’s healthcare and pensions “are still intact."
“We are the first responders, we get there before the police and ambulances, and they don’t want to recognize our importance,” he said. “But we’re going to stand our ground.”
Here’s more from Wade and a look at the rally:
“They say to us ‘we’re paying you what we’re giving you, you should be happy you have a job,’ but I don’t think that should be the mindset,” said Tonya Yarbrough, 42, a security officer at the Chicago Stock Exchange at 440 S. LaSalle St.
Yarbrough, a security guard of nine years, makes $12.65 and has two grandchildren younger than the age of seven. She travels from Chicago’s South Side neighborhood of Englewood to work every day.
She said she feels more safe at work than at home, and would move her family to a safer neighborhood if she could afford it.
“We are grateful we have work, but we still think we should get paid appropriately,” she said, noting that she sometimes has to choose between paying her rent, light and gas bills. Cable, she said, is a luxury.
“It’s our job as security officers to keep these buildings safe ... But we have families and responsibilities and we don’t have enough money to live,” she said.
Here’s more from Yarbrough:
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