Security officers who protect the majority of commercial office buildings and other major properties in Minneapolis and Saint Paul voted Saturday to authorize their bargaining committee to call a strike if necessary.
The overwhelmingly affirmative vote means the more than 750 security officers that protect the majority of the area’s office towers could walk off the job at any time in the coming weeks in protest of unfair labor practices by their employers.
The workers hope the action will help them reach a fair contract when negotiations resume Feb. 15.
“No one ever wants to have to strike, but we’re ready to do what it takes to win affordable health insurance for ourselves and our families,” said Renita Whicker, a security officer who works at LaSalle Plaza and is a member of Service Employees International Union Local 26. “Right now, many of us have to choose between paying the rent and taking our kids to the doctor. All Minnesotans deserve access to quality, affordable healthcare.”
security guards vote to authorize strike
Raising signs that read, “Yes, for a safer community,” Twin Cities security officers voted to authorize a strike if necessary.
Health insurance premiums can be as high as $835 per month for security officers, the union said. 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.
“Having the training and equipment we need to do our jobs well isn’t just an issue for security officers, it’s an issue for the people we serve and protect every day,” added Mike Kipka, an employee of Securitas at Block E. “We put ourselves in potentially dangerous situations in order to uphold public safety, and it’s time we are recognized for our work with better training, wages and benefits.”
Despite protecting multi-million dollar properties, security officers often struggle to get by. They protect properties owned by some of the highest-profile businesses in the Twin Cities, including Ameriprise, US Bank and United Properties.
At the rally to authorize a strike, the security officers were joined by Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak , Congressman Keith Ellison, Minneapolis City Council member Ralph Remington; leaders from religious organizations ISAIAH and the Workers Interfaith Network; labor leaders from Teamsters Local 120 and other unions; and community groups.
“Security officers play a critical role in upholding our public safety, and they provide an invaluable service to our community,” said Rybak. “We need them as our partner in the police department and the City of Minneapolis.”
Brad Slawson, Jr., president of Teamsters Local 120, said his 14,000 members will halt deliveries to any buildings subject to a strike. Local 120 members drive for several major freight haulers and United Parcel Service.
“Not one of these trucks is going to cross your picketline,” Slawson vowed.
Twin Cities security officers have been bargaining for months with their employers – security contractors ABM, Allied-Barton, American, Securitas, Viking, and Whelan – and they have been working without a contract since Jan. 1.