NEW YORK, May 8 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Thousands of security officers, union members, labor, religious and community leaders and elected officials took to the streets of midtown Manhattan today, calling for higher standards in the private security industry. Long plagued by low wages, paltry benefits, uneven training and high turnover, the industry has come under scrutiny for its practices. (Logo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20020918/SEIULOGO ) "We protect buildings worth billions of dollars, but are paid peanuts for our hard work," said Ivan Shelley, a non-union security officer who works at a Park Avenue commercial office building. "Even working overtime, I struggle to make ends meet and after nearly 15 years doing security work, I still don't have health care. We are standing up against this injustice and ready to fight for the respect we deserve." Today's rally highlighted Local 32BJ's campaign to bring together union and non-union officers to raise standards in the private security industry. Local 32BJ is bargaining contracts with the Realty Advisory Board (RAB), which represents owners and managers of commercial office buildings, as well as AlliedBarton and Securitas/Burns, major national security contractors. Together these contracts cover some 4,000 security officers. The union's proposals include wage increases, improved health insurance and enhanced training. In addition, the union continues its city-wide campaign to organize non-union security officers, who earn low wages and are not provided meaningful health benefits. Some non-union officers earn as little as $8 an hour, less than half the rate earned by 32BJ cleaners working in the same buildings. "For too long, security officers have been left behind as the owners of the Wall Street buildings they protect enjoy record profits," said SEIU President Andy Stern. "We need justice for all people who work hard to keep New York City safe and its economy strong." Over the past six months, security officers across the country, including Los Angeles, Seattle, the greater San Francisco area and Minneapolis, won new union contracts that raise wages and improve health care and other benefits. Most recently, Local 32BJ announced the first-ever union contracts for security officers in Washington, D.C. These historic agreements raise wage and benefit rates by 30% and provide employer-paid health care to full-time workers in D.C. "New York City's security officers deserve what officers in Washington, D.C. just won: the pay we need and the respect we deserve," said Michael Fishman, Local 32BJ SEIU President. "The time has come to significantly improve the wages, benefits and training for all security officers, who are on the front lines of keeping New York safe and secure. We will stand together until we win this fight." With more than 100,000 members in six states and Washington, D.C., including 70,000 in the New York area, Local 32BJ is the largest property services union in the country. The union represents more than 6,000 security officers.
SOURCE SEIU Local 32BJ