CT security officers at state buildings consider striking www.privateofficer.com
HARTFORD CT April 5 2012 — Private security guards who work in several state office buildings in Hartford will decide today whether to authorize a possible strike.
The Connecticut chapter of the union 32BJ is trying to organize the guards. Chapter president Kurt Westby said nearly 50 guards will vote on the strike authorization, with results expected at the state Capitol later tonight.
The guards work for SOS Security Inc. at buildings that house various agencies, including the Department of Public Works, the Office of Policy and Management, the Department of Developmental Services and the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.
Westby said there are several hundred guards employed by at least five private firms contracted to provide security in state buildings. There could be similar strike authorization votes taken in the future affecting workers as well, he said.
“We’re prepared for similar strike authorization votes,” he said. “If the guards are met with a lot of resistance, it’s very possible there will be similar actions.”
Westby said state officials should be concerned about the issues facing private guards, who earn on average about $10 an hour and sometimes have to pay as much as $585 in co-pays every two weeks for family medical coverage.
“If you look at privatized security guards, most of them are living in poverty. Many don’t have any benefits, health insurance and certainly not pensions. They’re second-class citizens, and they’re really state employees,” Westby said.
A message was left seeking comment with SOS Security, a Parsippany, N.J.-based company with offices in Rocky Hill.
Westby’s union, which is part of the Service Employees International Union, began working five years ago to organize more security guards. According to the union’s website, the ranks have grown from 1,000 to 13,000. Many are in government facilities and office buildings in New York, Philadelphia, Washington and New Jersey.
Westby said the guards in Hartford have complained of alleged intimidation tactics by the company to discourage unionization, as well as a stop in regular contributions to the workers’ retirement accounts.
“They haven’t had any luck in dealing with SOS in regards to their issues,” he said. “They also want to be part of our union and there’s a variety of issues they’re willing to strike over, at least we’ll see (on Wednesday).”