Katherine Blauvelt, Workers Interfaith Network (left) and Lisa Amman, ISAIAH, continued chanting after being handcuffed.
Photo by Steve Share, Minneapolis Labor Review
Security officers and community allies filled the lobby of U.S. Bancorp Center in downtown Minneapolis late Thursday afternoon to support a fair contract and 17 were arrested in an act of civil disobedience.
By an overwhelming vote, Twin Cities security officers have rejected a contract offer that fails to include affordable health care coverage, Service Employees International Union Local 26 announced Wednesday.
In balloting conducted Tuesday, Local 26 security officers voted 278-26 against a new agreement with five security companies – ABM, Allied Barton, American, Securitas and Viking.
“Their last offer makes health care less and less affordable with each year of the contract,” Local 26 President Javier Morillo said. “What we hope is to return to the (bargaining) table, but all options are open.”
In early February, Local 26 members authorized union leadership to call a strike if necessary. The union, which represents about 800 security officers, held a one-day walkout at selected worksites Feb. 25.
Contract talks went on for more than three months and the security officers have been working without a contract since Jan. 1.
The employers’ proposal would require workers to pay as much as $1,100 a month for family coverage, well beyond what they can afford, the union said. Morillo confirmed that health care remains the major stumbling block to a settlement, adding, “If we resolve this issue, I feel confident we’ll get a contract very quickly.”
Guy Thomas, a spokesman for the security companies, said, “We are concerned about the low turnout. Out of 800, far less than half of them voted on this contract.”
Thomas said the companies “have put a last, best and final offer on the table. An important part of that last, best and final offer was the commitment of the companies to identify and offer affordable health care for our employees. We will go back to the table to listen to what the union has to say regarding our last, best and final offer.”
No date has been set for a meeting, Thomas said.
Currently, just 13 out of the nearly 800 officers are enrolled in family health insurance and just 17 percent are enrolled in any health plan at all through their employer, the union said.
Several elected officials, including Congressman Keith Ellison, joined the security officers’ news conference at Minneapolis City Hall to announce the results of the contract vote. They called on building owners – who hire the security companies – to encourage them to offer affordable health care.
“Working families in Minnesota need quality health care,” said Ellison. “Building owners in our city have both the ability and the obligation to do more to ensure that workers and their children have a relationship with a doctor, not just an emergency room.”
The United States needs “a strategy for a high-wage economy and this means health care for everyone,” Ellison added. He closed by telling the workers, “We’re going to stick with you. You are not alone.”
Other elected officials attending the news conference included Minneapolis City Council members Elizabeth Glidden, Betsy Hodges, Ralph Remington, Don Samuels and Gary Schiff.
U.S. Bancorp was targeted by Service Employees International Union Local 26, which is seeking a new contract for 800 private security officers who work for five security contractors. Members voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to reject a contract offer because it failed to include affordable health insurance.
The employers’ contract offer would have made health insurance even more expensive than the current contract.
“We are here today to protect and defend community standards and say people who protect multi-million dollar real estate ought to be able to provide for their families,” said Javier Morillo-Alicea, addressing a crowd of about 100 union members and supporters outside the IDS Center at about 4:30 p.m.
The group marched across the street and rushed into the lobby of U.S. Bancorp Center, chanting, “What do we want? Health care. When do we want it? Now!”
A group of 17 sat down and linked arms. The crowd continued chanting. Police arrived within minutes. When the seated protestors refused to leave at the request of police, they were arrested. All arrested cooperated with police by presenting their wrists for handcuffing and by walking out of the building.
Outside, the crowd continued chanting while those arrested sat on the edge of a planter, awaiting police vehicles that soon would take them away.
“U.S. Bank, do the right thing!” the crowd chanted. Members of the group arrested also continued chanting.
The security officers’ contract expired Jan. 1.
SEIU Local 26 staged a one-day strike Feb. 25 to put pressure on the employers to settle the contract.
“On that one-day strike, we said if it has to get bigger, it has to get bigger,” Local 26 president Morillo-Alicea told the crowd Thursday.
The employers group termed the contract that was rejected as their “last, best final best offer.”
“They’re not prepared to move forward but we’re prepared to do more,” said Greg Nammacher, SEIU Local 26 program director, speaking to the crowd after police took the 17 people arrested away.
The 17 arrested included SEIU members and staff as well as community supporters from ISAIAH, Workers Interfaith Network, and TakeAction Minnesota.
Steve Share edits the Labor Review, the official publication of the Minneapolis Central Labor Union Council.