Community leaders continue to press for affordable health care


Community leaders who engaged in civil disobedience last week to support Twin Cities security officers are urging security companies to fulfill their promise of affordable health care.

Seventeen people, including representatives of the faith community, were arrested Thursday in a sitdown demonstration in the lobby of the U.S. Bancorps Center in downtown Minneapolis. The 17 were cited for trespassing and released.

The demonstration came two days after union members rejected a contract offer that did not include affordable health care coverage for security officers and their families. The officers’ union, Service Employees International Union Local 26, and five Twin Cities security companies – ABM, AlliedBarton, American, Viking and Securitas – had been negotiating for months.

On Friday, security companies issued a statement that they “were extremely shocked” by the protest and would meet to develop an affordable health care plan.

“Each of the companies is dedicated to working with its employees and the union to identify and select an affordable health plan,” said spokesman Guy Thomas. “In light of the union’s vote we will proceed to present a single, more specific health care plan so employees can vote to approve a new collective bargaining agreement with a specific health plan premium amount. We are working to find one quality health plan that all the companies will use, and we hope to present this plan to the union and employees as soon as possible.”

On Monday, however, the security companies confirmed through a federal mediator that they have no intentions to return to negotiations at this time.

“These companies continue to play games with their own employees’ health, and they continue to attack our community’s values by shirking their responsibility to provide affordable health care,” said the Reverend Grant Stevensen, who was arrested in Thursday’s protest.

“It raises serious questions about their integrity when they say they will offer affordable health care, then immediately turn around and say they’re not ready to meet. Last week community members did what security officers do every day: we stood up to protect and defend our community values. The people in our churches and in our community are suffering for lack of health care, and that is why the faith community is involved. We call on building owners like US Bancorp and Ameriprise to partner with us to stop the games and resolve this.”

Security officers said the rejected proposal would have required them to pay as much as $1,100 a month for family coverage – more than half of their income. On Feb. 25, security officers held a one-day strike – the first-ever of its kind in the area – and have authorized union leadership to call a larger walkout if necessary.