Few people have felt the impact of America's shrinking middle class like Minnesota security officer Robert Bertrand. "I went from making $80,000 to making $18,000," Robert says. "That's $4,000 below the poverty line. It's sad." Robert, a father of two, remembers a different way of life. "When you're middle class you have a pension and decent health insurance," he says. "And we used to go skiing, hunting, fishing. Now I can't even save for the kids' school. It's just paycheck to paycheck."
Robert works for ABM protecting Meridian Crossings, a high-rise building in Richfield. The building includes a branch of US Bank--the nation's fifth-largest commercial bank, which raked in $19.1 billion in revenue in 2011. "I work the night shift, 11 at night to seven in the morning," Robert says. "I take it seriously, very seriously." A member of SEIU Local 26, Robert is one of 1000 suburban Minneapolis security officers seeking his first union contract. So far, Minneapolis security employers have refused to negotiate with Robert and his co-workers in good faith. Robert would love to be able to sit down with security employers and negotiate but he's already seen that things aren't that easy. "If you want to make a change, you have to fight for it," he says. A veteran of the U.S. Army, Robert knows a little something about fighting. "My dad was in the military too," he says. "I was raised with the idea that you serve your country." "Something has to change," he says. "Without unions it's going to be rich or poor. In 10 or 15 years there will be no middle class. That's going to be a sad day for America. And that's why we're fighting--for our kids, for a whole way of life."