March 1, 2012
Around Town – By Neal Tepel
Security officers from around the city joined with elected officials, clergy leaders and community supporters in Harlem on Wednesday, February 29th to kick off a major campaign to help raise wage and benefit standards for thousands of officers working in New York City. “The tens of thousands of men and women who work as security officers should be respected for being on the front lines everyday to keep us safe,” said Hector Figueroa, 32BJ Secretary Treasurer. “For far too long, these officers have made up the ranks of the working poor. They’re asking for reasonable wage increases and health care coverage to support their families and give back to the communities where they live.”
32BJ represents more than 10,000 security officers who protect commercial office buildings, higher education facilities, government facilities, museums, libraries, stadiums and other high profile sites in the city including the Statue of Liberty, the Chrysler Building, Rockefeller Center, Yankee Stadium, Fordham and Columbia Universities, all three of New York City area airports, the George Washington Bridge, the World Trade Center and the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. “Power is the ability to get things done; some clearly have that ability, and some don’t, said Reverend Dr. Johnny Ray Youngblood of Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church. “American workers have only one way of garnering power, and that’s to act together.”
Contracts covering some 9,000 of these officers are set to expire this year with the first round of expirations taking place today for thousands of security officers working for FJC Security at the Port Authority facilities and other sites throughout the City. Meanwhile, the contract for officers working under the Realty Advisory Board (RAB) agreements at commercial office buildings expires at the end of March. Contracts for approximately 7,000 other officers will expire in June.
“The cost of everything is on the rise in New York,” said Bettina Herbert, a mother of two and a security officer working in a Midtown office building. “We need wage increases and affordable healthcare just to stay afloat here.” The average hourly wage for 32BJ officers is $13.92 an hour, or roughly $27,000 a year and most receive employer paid health care. They seek greater respect on the job, wage increases to keep pace with the high cost of living in the city, expanded health care coverage and other basic benefits.
“The campaign to raise standards in the security industry isn’t just about getting new contracts for security officers,” said Figueroa. “It’s about lifting families out of poverty and providing an economic boost to our city’s communities of color.” With more than 120,000 members in eight states and Washington D.C., including 70,000 in the New York area, 32BJ is the largest property services union in the country.