State Rep. Jeff Barker joined veterans who work as security officers for the private security contractor, Securitas, to push for unionizing the company, at a downtown press conference Wednesday, Nov. 10.
Backed by the Service Employees International Union, the group released a survey of working conditions for some 380 Securitas employees in six cities around the county, which they said detailed poor pay, inadequate training and the lack of affordable health insurance, which they said forces many Veterans who are working as officers to rely on the already strained VA healthcare system.
"As a veteran I understand the myriad of challenges that one faces when returning from service," said State Representative Jeff Barker, in a statement. "Finding a good job with decent benefits should not be one of them."
Sweden-based Securitas is one of the world's largest security firms, generating $8.2 billion in revenue and $494 million in profits for the Sweden-based multinational, according to SEIU.
Securitas workers in the United States and Canada claim the company is refusing to cooperate with union organizers by denying proper documentation and, in some cases, threatening to fire individuals.
A National Labor Relations Board investigation into Securitas was launched in 2008 after the company allegedly fired at least one worker who tried to organize Tacoma security guards to join the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.
Elsewhere Securitas workers have successfully unionized. The corporation's officials maintain their biggest objection is toward unions that represent a mix of job classifications that put security guards in the same union with other kinds of workers – as that could, in the case of a strike, leave facilities unguarded, Securitas management says.
SEIU organizers say Securitas provides security for Intel, Hewlett Packard, Adidas, and the US Bank Corp Tower in downtown Portland.
"The security field is a natural fit for many veterans, and we should hold global corporations like Securitas accountable to our communities and our country and ensure that these are good jobs," Barker said.
"Over half of my coworkers don't have healthcare because it is too expensive," said Karl Joiner, an Army veteran and Securitas officer at the Lloyd District's Liberty Centre.
"Securitas is one of the largest security firms in the world, the Veterans who work for them should have affordable healthcare, and they shouldn't have to rely on the already strained VA system."
SEIU argues that Securitas has entered into to a Global Agreement through which it makes commitments to the communities where it operates, including allowing employees to unionize – but the company is not honoring the agreement.
"We care about the people and places we protect," said David Strong, a war veteran and Securitas officer. "But with such low pay and little to no benefits, turnover is high, my co-workers and I are coming together to form a union so that we can do what other union officers have successfully done, raise standards in the security industry."