Downtown security guards unionizing
Downtown security guards are fighting Brantley Security for union representation, and City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young offered his support at a council hearing last night.
“Brantley does most of the high profile stuff like Harbor East,” Julie Karant, a spokeswoman for the Service Employees International Union 32BJ, which has been working with the 75 or so Brantley guards in the city since last summer. She says many of the workers receive food stamps and subsidized medical care because they earn so little: “It’s an overlooked issue.”
Maybe not anymore. With about 120,000 members, New York-based 32BJ is the largest property service worker’s union in the country. Other unions organized Baltimore’s janitorial workers at the stadia and hotel housekeepers in recent years, while fast food workers are striking nation-wide today to protest low and unchanging wages.
Karant says Brantley is “an outlier” among private security firms in the city, most of which pay better and offer better working conditions. (Brantley’s regional VP did not immediately return a call for comment). Karant says security officers in other cities are unionized and get better pay. Brantley guards make around $13-$14 an hour in Baltimore, the union says, while guards in Washington D.C. who joined the union six years ago make about $17.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technologies’ Living Wage calculator says that to live decently an adult with a single dependent in Baltimore City needs to make more than $22 an hour. The median hourly wage in the state of Maryland is about $14.
About three-quarters of Baltimore’s 1,000 or so private security officers are African-American. Half are women. At the hearing, two Brantley workers said the job involved 11-hour shifts outdoors during “code-blue” emergency cold. “Due to my asthma, the only way to stop working this post was to contact my doctor to write a letter to my job,” David Carter said, according to a union transcript. Another worker, Travis Henson-Rollins, described having to spend $82 to get a background check weeks after she started work.
The city council resolution, introduced in March, says “current wages for security officers lag behind the wages of other occupations, including parking enforcement workers and refuse collectors.”
“Raising standards for the men and women who keep us safe is a critical matter of public safety,” Baltimore City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young said. “Fighting poverty is also a critical tool in fighting crime, that’s why we must use this opportunity to create good jobs in Baltimore.”