Early this year the Justice for Janitors campaign helped thousands of Twin Cities workers attain family health coverage. Now security guards and window cleaners – who work in the same downtown buildings as the janitors – are mobilizing to improve their pay and benefits.
Under the theme “One Standard for All Building Service Workers,” members of Service Employees International Union Local 26 officially launched their contract campaign Saturday at the Minneapolis Labor Center. They were joined by Local 26 janitors who conducted a highly visible and successful effort last winter.
“This movement is literally about organizing people out of poverty,” Minneapolis City Council member Ralph Remington told the crowd.
Local 26 represents some 1,000 private security guards and window cleaners whose contracts expire Dec. 31. On Saturday, they approved contract goals that include higher wages, affordable health care, improved training and safety, job security and respect for diversity.
SEIU security guards
Members of the negotiating committee for security guards (above) and window cleaners represented by SEIU Local 26 cheer as the committees are announced.
SEIU window cleaners
A survey of the security guard members found that few could afford the family health insurance coverage offered by private security companies. Pay is so low, the union found, that one in 10 of the security guard members had been forced to file for bankruptcy.
John Graham, a security guard for the multinational Securitas, said the employee premium for the company’s family health plan is $270 a week – adding up to more than half of what the average security guard earns in a year.
Retirement plans are small or non-existent, said Keith Pearl, window cleaner for another large corporation, Marsden. One cleaner who recently retired gets the grand sum of $150 a month, he said.
“All families in the Twin Cities deserve these things,” said Harrison Bullard, a Viking security officer. “We must all stand together, security officers, janitors, window cleaners and all other working people in the Twin Cities and say that we need health care; we need fair wages; we need to be able to care for our families with dignity.”
Like the Justice for Janitors campaign, which linked Twin Cities janitors with their counterparts across the country, the struggle for fair window cleaner and security guard contracts will also be a national effort, Local 26 President Javier Morillo said. Similar efforts are under way in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C., he said.
“Our employers are national employers” and that means the union must coordinate across communities, he said. “Today’s fight is not just about our contract. It’s about organizing more workers . . . We know where we represent more workers, we are stronger at the table.”
The Justice for Janitors campaign included several mass marches through the Minneapolis skyway system. The skyways will again be filled with the SEIU’s signature purple for a march Tuesday, Dec. 4, at 11:30 a.m., starting at Minneapolis City Hall.
The union also plans a public forum Dec. 8 to put the spotlight on Hannon Security, a non-union company being investigated for possible racial and sexual discrimination. The Workers Interfaith Network will participate in the forum; no location has been set yet.
For more information
Visit the Local 26 website, www.seiu26.org