Nearly 100 SEIU* Local 1 security officers and their supporters staged a rally and flash mob at the Thompson Center Wednesday to bring attention to their campaign for better wages and affordable health care. Presently, full time security officers can pay up to $1,543 a month for health insurance coverage for a family of four. In some cases, that could be more than 80 percent of an officer’s monthly income.
“We’re just asking for fair wages, health benefits and [that they] just treat us with integrity and respect,” said Kenyatta Sinclair, a security officer who has been on the job for five years. Sinclair, who makes $13.60 an hour, does not currently have health benefits.
“I would have to buy my own plan, and I don’t make enough to buy one,” Sinclair explained.
The workers rallying at the Thompson Center have been in negotiations with some of the largest security contractors in the nation, including Securitas and Allied Barton, said Ivan Moreno, a communications specialist for SEIU Local 1. Presently, representatives from SEIU's bargaining committee are still trying to negotiate contract language before they move to the next phase of negotiations, which would be focused on a wage increase and health benefits.
Earlier this year, the union secured a three-year contract with the Building Owners and Manager's Association, which included annual raises and kept family health insurance plans intact. During the negotiations, workers and their supporters staged multiple rallies and received support from the community and legislators, including Illinois Congresswoman Robin Kelly.
Wednesday's demonstrators dressed in Halloween-themed costumes and broke into dance to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” as a means to bring more attention to their campaign for a fair contract.
“This is more than just a contract. This is a revolution of a social movement that is happening,” said Erica Kimble, vice president and Security Division director.
“To get something different, we have to do something different. We have to come out, be unified and stand in solidarity with one another to show these contractors we mean business this year.”
After six bargaining sessions, the negotiations have been moving slowly, according to Kimble.
Here's a look at the protest, flash mob dance and more from Kimble:
Miguel Flores, a BOMA security officer of nine years, said actions like Wednesday’s flash mob helps workers feel more unified in their fight for better wages.
“It helps show the security officers that we’re not alone, that we have the support of Local 1 to come help fight for better wages and benefits.”
The demonstrators said security officers who protect public safety deserve better than poverty wages.
“No longer will security officers go to work and protect and serve the public and not get the incentive of a decent rate of pay and health insurance,” said Kimble.
SEIU organizers say the union will be back at the bargaining table on November 7.
* The SEIU Illinois Council sponsors this website.