How the Freedom to Form Unions is Transforming the Security Industry, Strengthening the Middle Class and Creating Good Jobs
There is a strong debate happening across the country these days about the role of unions in the economy. But as lawmakers attack the middle class by gutting collective bargaining in several states, a majority of the American public supports workers' rights and the freedom to form a union.
In a New York Times/CBS poll last month, 60 percent of Americans opposed taking away the collective bargaining rights of public employees. And this month, The Wall Street Journal/NBC confirmed this finding with a new poll that found 62 percent of Americans find it unacceptable to eliminate collective bargaining rights for public employees. In fact, 77 percent think that public employees should have the same rights as Americans who work for private companies.
And they have good reason to believe this. Workers who have fought for unions in the private sector have improved jobs, their company's practices and their communities as a whole.
As the middle class struggles through the ongoing recession to provide for their families, workers' rights guarantee that employees have a voice on the job, get paid livable wages, and work under fair conditions. The 35,000 security officers who have formed unions with SEIU are a strong example of how workers exercising collective bargaining rights can bring major improvements to a fast-growing industry.
By working together in their union, officers in the private security industry have won higher wages, better training, more affordable healthcare, paid sick days and more respect on the job. Union security officers have also built pride and professionalism in the industry, which leads to more reliable protection for property owners, tenants and the public.
An Iraq war veteran, Kevin Chavis saw how forming a union could bring pride and professionalism to his job. In turn, he won a pay raise that helped him provide for his family, and with better health insurance he is now able to take his son to the doctor without worrying about how he's going to afford it.
Security officer Renita Whicker helped form a union at her workplace and won paid sick days and more affordable health insurance. Now she and her fellow officers no longer have to risk their jobs when they get sick or injured.
Donna Alexander had a negative opinion of unions until she learned the positive effect a collective voice can have on the well-being of security officers. As a member of her bargaining committee, she helped her fellow officers win more respect on the job, needed vacation days, and regular pay raises.
"With a union, you have a voice...you'll be heard," says security officer Harrison Bullard. Harrison and his coworkers won higher wages, affordable healthcare and the opportunity for officers to keep jobs at certain worksites even if the security contract changes - a benefit that prevents turnover and helps individual clients keep knowledgeable security officers on the job.
These are just a few of the thousands of union members in the private security industry who know the vital importance of the freedom to form unions. Every American, regardless of whether they work in the private sector or public sector, should enjoy this basic American freedom.