NEW YORK — The workers who provide security at public and private buildings throughout New York City are looking for improved wages, benefits and working conditions.
Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ began negotiations Wednesday to renew contracts with building owners and security contractors.
The contracts will cover some 14,000 workers at colleges, government buildings, museums, libraries, stadiums and landmarks around the five boroughs.
According to the union’s vice president, Denis Johnston, although New York is one of the most expensive cities in the country, the average union security officer currently makes only about $37,000 a year.
“As housing costs go up in neighborhoods where our members live, it’s becoming harder and harder for members to survive, so we need solid wage increases that can help people keep up with that rising cost of living,” he states.
On Wednesday, the union presented its wage and benefits proposals to building owners and is opening negotiations with contractors Thursday. The current contract expires on April 30.
Johnston says union security guards are trained professionals who perform many first-responder functions.
“Our members are responsible for building evacuations and fire and life safety, they’re trained in CPR and there are so many things that our members do each and every day that help keep the tenants and the visitors in their buildings safe and secure,” he points out.
Johnston adds that standards for security officers in the city have been raised significantly in the 20 years since 9/11.
He also notes that wages and benefits for New York City’s security officers have improved as the standards have been raised and the union has grown.
“This was predominantly a poverty-wage industry where workers were making minimum wage with no meaningful benefits whatsoever,” he states. “Originally, we had 1,000 officers in the union and now we’re 14,000 strong.”
The union and employers will return to the bargaining table on March 9.