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On Strike! Wednesday morning update
UPDATE 2/27/2013: According to a 4:45 a.m. press release, security guards at six out of seven Twin Cities security guard companies are out on strike today.
Just after 4:00 a.m., SEIU Local 26 security officers reached a tentative agreement with one of the subcontractors, American Security, after 14 hours of emergency bargaining through the night. American Security is the market leader in the Twin Cities and also based in St. Paul. Due to the tentative agreement, security officers will not be striking against American Security. The remaining six employers would not agree to the tentative deal, however. ...
After negotiations that lasted more than 31 hours this weekend, 4,000 Local 26 janitors came to a tentative agreement with their employers. Employers came back to the table with security officers Tuesday afternoon; after 14 hours, security officers now have a tentative agreement with American Security; the remaining employers – G4S, AlliedBarton, Securitas, Viking Security, ABM Security, Whelan – have yet to reach a reach an agreement with security officers. The members have been working without a contract since December 31.
The strike was scheduled for one day only, February 27.
The security guards had gathered at South High on Sunday, February 23 for a day of organizing that started at 1:00 p.m. The security guards—members of SEIU Local 26—were preparing for a possible strike later in the week. The day included four hours of direct action training led by Take Action Minnesota. One woman later led fist-pumping and organizing cries of "Si se puede." Rows of cafeteria tables were littered with purple, security badge-shaped demonstration signs with "Stand for Security" handwritten across the front. A mass of delivery pizzas had just arrived. The atmosphere was genial.
"If you can hear me, clap once," an SEIU staff-person called out at one point. Everyone clapped. KARE 11 was there to shoot footage of the group decorating signs and the organizers wanted it to look good. "Make sure when the camera's in here, we're all working," he said, "not goofing around."
Although they allowed themselves to have fun, the organizers remained serious about the possibility of a strike. Kim Martini, a security guard for six years and a member of the SEIU bargaining unit involved in the current bargaining process, believes the security companies don't take the possibility of a strike seriously. "I think we're stronger and more prepared for this than they believe," she said.
The prospective strike comes on the heels of a contract dispute involving another group of workers represented by Local 26—janitors. On Saturday, February 22 bargaining talks between employers and janitors hit a positive note when employers offered workers a new contract that included wage increases and improved benefits coverage. The agreement is tentative and janitors are expected to vote on it this week.
One factor in the janitors' success was the broad coalition of support they were able to draw. According to an SEIU press release, the janitors' campaign received support from influential Twin Cities figures, consisting of "members of the business community, and elected officials—including members of the Minneapolis and St. Paul City Councils, dozens of state legislators, Mayor R.T. Rybak and Congressman Keith Ellison."
The action around the security guard bargaining process is part of a collective "week of action" involving a slew of grassroots organizations. SEIU and Take Action Minnesota were joined at the South High organizing day by members of CTUL, Minnesotans for a Fair Economy, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, Occupy Homes, ISAIAH and others. On Tuesday, February 26th, organizers will head downtown to Target, both the corporate and retail buildings, for public demonstrations. Other activities are planned for the week as well.
Just as SEIU fits into a bigger picture of Twin Cities organizing, the security guards' approach to contract improvements on this round of bargaining fits into a bigger goal. Said Martini, "What we're trying to do is move this industry into the middle class, instead of poverty wages. We're trying to turn this industry into a career industry."
© 2013 Phoebe Tollefson