NEW YORK — With the contract deadline fast approaching on April 30, hundreds of security officers—members of 32BJ SEIU—marched through downtown Manhattan Monday, April 4 at 4 pm to demand a fair contract.
Bargaining between the 32BJ SEIU bargaining committees, representing 12,000 security officers who are union members, and their employers have been ongoing since February. Their contract expires April 30. Should the security officers and their employers fail to come to an agreement by April 30, the officers could go on strike, potentially affecting sites all over the city, including iconic New York landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty, the 9/11 Memorial, Rockefeller Center and other office, university, government and infrastructure buildings.
“Security officers are always there to protect our communities, as the eyes and ears in our buildings, but too many of them earn too little to support their families,” said SEIU 32BJ president Héctor Figueroa. “In New York, we are keenly aware of how important security officers are to protecting all of us in our increasingly unstable and unsafe world.”
Hundreds of security officers and other supportive union members marched PAST offices they usually protect from City Hall down Broadway to a rally at Bowling Green, in order to tell employers that they will not accept low wages, cutbacks on family health insurance or low standards that put them at risk.
The work of security officers is more important than ever. As we have seen in attacks that have hit major cities around the world, they are both protectors and first responders.
“They have saved lives through quick emergency response, have helped prevent robberies and disasters, have even helped deliver babies, and earlier this year one security officer Idrissa Camara even gave his life to protect the people in his building,” said Denis Johnston, Vice President of 32BJ and Director of the Security Division of the union. “It’s time we stand up and be there for them in return.”
While security officers keep the public safe, the health and safety of their families is being jeopardized by proposals to cut or limit their access to health insurance.
Security officers across the East Coast have organized with 32BJ in the past two decades to demand improved training which has saved lives, and have fought for increased wages to help reduce turnover and keep more experienced officers on the job. Yet there is more to do. In a 2016 survey, half of security officers who are 32BJ union members said they are worried about their personal safety on the job.
“New York’s security officers work day and night to keep our City safe, but their well-being is threatened by low wages and inadequate benefits,” said New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer. “These men and women protect our universities, offices, government buildings, and tourist attractions, and now it’s our turn to step up and protect them. 32BJ security officers are New York City’s front line of defense – and they deserve a contract that recognizes the critical nature of their work with a fair wage and strong benefits.”
“The safety of our residents and our city is priceless,” said Public Advocate Letitia James. “But the very people who work so hard to protect New Yorkers’ safety are not shielded from the rising costs of living in our city. We have a moral obligation to do all we can to ensure our security officers have good salaries, health insurance and are treated fairly.”
“We have a responsibility to protect the people who protect us. The people of Brooklyn depend on the thousands of security officers who protect our community, including some of our most iconic institutions. All workers, particularly those individuals responsible for public safety, should earn a fair wage with benefits sufficient to support a family in New York City,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams.
“Security officers act as our eyes and ears, and play an invaluable part in keeping building residents, workers and visitors safe. They should not have to struggle to provide for themselves and their families. I am proud to stand with these brave security officers as they fight for a living wage and access to health insurance that other workers enjoy,” said New York City Councilmember Margaret Chin.
“They keep us safe and we need to keep our officers secure with a living wage, access to health care and a fair contract,” said Council Member Ben Kallos a labor lawyer.
With 155,000 members in eleven states and Washington, D.C., including 70,000 in New York City, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.