Security officers urge contractor to offer fair health plan
HARTFORD, Conn. — Dozens of security officers braved the cold in downtown Hartford Friday afternoon to rally outside the headquarters of SecurAmerica until a complaint from the building led the Hartford police to disperse the crowd, apparently due to claims of private ownership of the sidewalk.
The workers and their allies had gathered on Valentine’s Day to demand their employer put the heart back into Hartford Security with an affordable health plan.
After winning recognition as the security officers’ union last summer, 32BJ SEIU has been unable to reach an agreement on health insurance at the bargaining table. Currently, most of the officers have no plan. Many earn little more than minimum wage, undermining the morale and longevity of the workforce. The proposals offered by SecurAmerica thus far would negate any raise in the officers’ pay, making it difficult if not impossible for them to meet their household bills.
“If our members took the insurance plan offered by SecurAmerica, our members would be living in poverty,” said Juan Hernandez, Vice President of 32BJ SEIU and head of the union in Connecticut. “That’s why we’re out here on Valentine’s Day, asking SecurAmerica to have a heart.”
“The health insurance they offer now doesn’t cover anything,” said SecurAmerica officer Henry Matthew. “One of our pregnant officers has had to pay $4,000 out of pocket. How can you call that insurance?”
DeShawn Brownel spoke as an ally who once worked for private security companies like SecurAmerica. “I remember once when I had a health emergency and was charged $1,500 for an ambulance ride of half a mile,” he told the crowd. “We protect the people who come in and out of these buildings, putting our lives on the line every day, but they can’t protect us with decent health insurance?”
State Senator Matt Ritter, Co-Chair of the Insurance and Real Estate Committee, stressed the irony of the Valentine’s Day action. “Companies like SecurAmerica provide security at several major insurance companies, which provide good wages and benefits to their employees, but they won’t provide affordable insurance to the first line of defense in the building.”
Shortly after the State Senator spoke, Hartford police informed the organizers of the complaint and ordered an end to the sidewalk rally, which included security officers, local elected officials, union allies, and the ACLU Connecticut.
With more than 175,000 members in 11 states and Washington DC, including 5,000 members in Connecticut, 32BJ is the largest building service workers union in the country.