Ross Schmidt knows how to manage his money. “I’m frugal. I was raised in a single-parent household. I have two roommates that help to pay my mortgage. My biggest expense is technology. I don’t smoke, drink, or eat out a lot.”
So the raises that Ross and 1,000 of his co-workers won by forming a union has made a big difference. “When we signed our first union contract for the Minneapolis suburbs in 2013, I got my first raise in 13 years. Just the fact that we got a raise—and will be getting a raise—is nice. To be treated fairly.”
There were other gains too.
“I’ve never had sick days before, in my 13 years as a security officer. If you were sick, you either lost pay or went to work sick—usually the latter. In security, we work with a lot of people, so we can be a major transfer point if we’re sick. But people can’t afford to lose pay.” Ross now earns 3 sick days per year under his new contract.
He also knows the importance of having a sensible process in place if there’s an issue at work. “I almost lost my position because a manager said, ‘Why don’t we just remove the officers?’ in response to a minor problem that came up. They’d treat us like Kleenex. The union gives you the confidence to know that you won’t be arbitrarily booted.”
But for Ross, winning healthcare has changed his life. By the time he got healthcare, Ross had three different hernias that had been getting gradually worse for almost 30 years, creating a strain that took a toll on his body.
“They were very minor initially, but became much more substantial. I had a hernia the size of a tangerine resting on my belly. The healthcare was the biggest raise that we got when we won our first union contract. Knowing that they can’t take it away is huge.”
Ross has been active in organizing his union since the very beginning. After he and his co-workers won their union, he helped negotiate their first contract, and is now a union steward for other officers at his company, Universal Protection Service.
Ross wants security officers in other cities to have the chance to improve their lives, too. “Normally, you feel powerless. Without a union, you can either take what they give you, or you can walk. The union gives you power.”