Thousands of NJ security guards want pay increases amid pandemic
NEWARK, NJ— An average workday isn’t easy for a security guard in the age of coronavirus.
Since the start of the pandemic, New Jersey building security officers have been asked to take on an exhaustive list of new duties, such as operating temperature monitoring stations and enforcing mask warrants – putting often their own safety at stake.
And that’s why more than 2,700 security guards across the state deserve a raise, union spokespersons said.
Earlier this week, thousands of security guards from 10 New Jersey counties gathered to open negotiations for a new contract. Meeting at the Newark office of 32BJ SEIU, a 12-member bargaining committee officially launched its campaign to strike a new four-year deal with their employers, who joined the talks remotely.
“The past year has been extremely difficult serving as a security guard and essential worker,” said Tyshawn Barnes, who works for Allied Universal Security at Hudson Community College.
“We put our lives and the health of our families at risk when we showed up to work, while everyone else was at home,” Barnes said. “This contract negotiation is about showing us the respect we deserve for the sacrifices we have made.”
According to 32BJ spokespersons, security guards protect more than 150 properties valued at around $ 7.5 billion, including the offices of 22 Fortune 500 companies, “critical infrastructure sites and major cultural institutions.” and seven colleges and universities which welcome more than 47,000 students. .
The workers include 1,800 security guards from Hudson, Essex and Union counties, over 400 officers from Bergen, Passaic, Middlessex and Mercer, and over 500 new members from Morris, Monmouth and Somerset.
Some of their requests include:
- Salary increases
- Essential salary for officers who worked throughout the pandemic
- Improved paid leave
- The ability to maintain their employer-paid health benefits
According to 32BJ, officers – many of whom are black or immigrant – are also calling for strengthened anti-discrimination provisions for attributes “historically associated with non-white racial groups,” such as hairstyles.
“Our security guards have weathered this pandemic on the front lines,” said Kevin Brown, vice president of 32BJ and director of the state of New Jersey.
“As our state enters a phase of recovery, increasing their wages, improving protections and maintaining their health care are the pillars of the 2021-2025 framework agreement,” Brown said.
Several elected officials said they supported the pressure from security agents for a new contract. They included:
Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop – “I’m here today because 32BJ represents the work backbone of Jersey City, Hudson County and New Jersey. For years, 32BJ has advocated that frontline workers get jobs done often. underestimated but vital to the economy. We must ensure that these workers have the means and resources to raise their families in a comfortable way. We are here to support these workers and look forward to the positive outcome of these negotiations . “
Hudson County Commissioner Bill O’Dea – “I am here to support the union and the workers in these negotiations. During the pandemic, security guards were – and continue to be – on the front lines. They proudly took on additional responsibilities and risks without additional compensation. I am proud to support 32BJ on this trading session. “
Hillside Mayor Dahlia Vertreese – “When we talk about security guards, we are talking about the first line of defense. They are the ones who will come out and protect you by applying COVID-19 prevention policies. They should be paid accordingly. They should have benefits. They deserve more. We need – what we understand as – essential workers in this economy. “
Essex County Commissioner Brendan Gill – “I am the product of a union home, an advocate for the grassroots members of the labor community, and I believe wholeheartedly that unions are the path to the middle class. I support the nearly 3,000 members of the security 32BJs who work in a multitude of critical properties across the state, and we must do everything possible to ensure that the strength of their contract reflects changing workplace conditions with respect to wages, benefits, promoting the diversity and safety of 32BJ employees and the people and entities they protect.
Security guards who met on Wednesday aren’t the only essential New Jersey workers asking for more pay and better conditions amid the pandemic.
In April 2020, key workers at five luxury apartment buildings in North Jersey staged a 24-hour strike, alleging they were underpaid and exposed to coronavirus. The walkout included dozens of workers who help run the Washington and Ambassador Towers in East Orange, The Cliffs in Jersey City, Galaxy Towers in Guttenberg and Towne Center in Englewood.
“We were told we were essential workers,” said Michael Mohrle, 48, who worked as a janitor at the Towne Center in Englewood for nine years. “But right now, I can’t say I’m making a living.”
In March, a committee representing more than 10,000 airport workers in New Jersey and New York met with a group of 23 employers to take the first steps towards a new contract – which they ultimately won.
“The unit will be the largest group of airport workers to enter negotiations since [pandemic’s] start, and should lead the conversation nationwide on the safety and recovery of essential workers after COVID-19, ”union spokespersons said.
The demands included better health and safety protections and “expanded organizational rights”, as well as provisions prohibiting employers from discriminating against workers based on hairstyle and hair texture.
In April, Health Professionals and Allied Employees (HPAE), a union representing 14,000 nurses and healthcare workers in New Jersey, provided an update on ongoing contract negotiations with its locals amid the pandemic.
The risk premium will be among its members’ goals in 2021, union spokespersons said. Other demands will include worker and patient safety measures, “safe staffing” and infectious disease preparedness.
“Nurses and other health care professionals need to be heard,” urged HPAE President Debbie White. “Their experiences over the past year have led to a set of demands that will go a long way to protect frontline caregivers. Ultimately, COVID-19 served to highlight what we’ve been saying from the start; worker safety is patient safety. “
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