With strike imminent, security officers appeal to building owners

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Facing an imminent strike, security officers and supporters took their case directly to the owners of downtown buildings. Some 200 people, led by faith leaders, marched through the Minneapolis skyway system Thursday. Members of the Workers Interfaith Network and ISAIAH – two organizations of faith communities focused on social justice – were turned away when they attempted to address a meeting of BOMA, the Building Owners and Managers Association.

But a representative of BOMA met with the group and listened to the concerns of security officers.

Mike Kipka, a security officer at Block E in downtown Minneapolis, told BOMA representative Dick Kohl that a major issue for the workers is training and protective equipment.

“I’m not going to wait until one of us gets killed or injured,” he exclaimed.

Twin Cities security officers, represented by Service Employees International Union Local 26, resume negotiations Saturday and are calling on companies to address their key issues and settle a new contract at that time.

On Feb. 9, the workers voted overwhelmingly to authorize their bargaining committee to call a strike at any time over unfair labor practices, if necessary. They have been bargaining for months with their employers – security contractors ABM, Allied-Barton, American, Securitas, Viking, and Whelan – and have been working without a contract since Jan. 1.

At a rally Thursday, the security officers were joined by members of the Minneapolis and St. Paul City Councils.

“Twin Cities security officers are standing up for affordable health care for all Minnesotans, and that deserves our support,” said Saint Paul City Council Member Lee Helgen. “We call upon the owners and managers of Twin Cities commercial real estate to be leaders in supporting affordable health insurance and livable wages for security officers and their families.”

Last week, the Saint Paul City Council passed a resolution titled “Support for Twin Cities Security Officers” that formally delivered this message.

“Our cities are safer because of the security workers,” said Minneapolis City Council member Betsy Hodges. “That’s the basic truth.”

Key issues in the bargaining for more than 750 security officers include better training and safety on the job and more affordable health care.

Health insurance premiums can be as high as $835 per month for security officers. As a result, only 13 security officers, just two percent, are enrolled in the family health insurance offered by their employer. Only 17 percent of security officers are enrolled in any health insurance from their employer.

“I have four children, and I can’t wait any longer for affordable health insurance for my family,” said Howard Worley, a security officer at Town Square in downtown Saint Paul. “We’re taking a stand for all working Minnesotans who go without health care for their families, and it’s time for the business leaders in our community to step up and do what’s right.”

Twin Cities security officers protect properties owned by some of highest-profile business leaders in the Twin Cities, including Ameriprise, US Bank, and United Properties.

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