Jesse Lepley has been an officer for more than a year now. At 6’5” and 370lbs, he’s the ‘biggest’ officer at his site. Which is a good thing, as he protects a dangerous location.
Born and raised in Minneapolis, Jesse initially wanted to join the military, but he sustained spinal injuries while working construction. Security was the next logical step for him. “Growing up, both my parents were drug dealers. In and out of prison. I came out of that experience and wanted to help my community out, make them feel safe,” he says.
When he was young his family moved around often, in and out of motels. He missed most of elementary school. “I was terrible at grammar and spelling. But I loved science. So I double-downed on that,” he says. Years later, Jesse graduated college with a degree in Astro-Physics.
After school, he entered the security industry and joined the union with thousands of security officers in SEIU Local 26. “I have fantastic health benefits which only cost $35 a month. We have good pay, job security, paid training and vacation,” he says. “I’m working on owning my own house at the moment.”
His current site covers a 3-block radius and a market with restaurants and stores. “We see a lot of drug use. Our job is to keep everyone safe and get the folks who shouldn’t be there off the property in the most peaceful way we can,” Jesse says. “Even still, once or twice a week there is a physical altercation. It’s as close to cop work as it gets.” Jesse has been punched in the face several times. His co-workers have sustained injuries including a broken jaw.
With his fellow union security officers—at his location and others---they have won excellent paid training including self-defense classes, CPR certification, seminars on blood pathogens, and more. Through these, Jesse learned how to spot and address heart attack victims and has responded to two heart attack incidents while on the job already. And when he was assigned to his post, he received three additional days of on-site trainings with his co-workers. All of these are 100% employer-paid and officers receive their full hourly pay to attend.
With all this training comes technical skill and confidence. “We have excellent team work and communication at our site. We trust each other 100%. I know we will always solve things together,” he says.
Jesse was recently elected to be the union shop-steward at his location. “As the union steward, I love helping my co-workers. We’ve gotten raises for officers that had been over-looked and solved some day-to-day problems we were all facing,” he says.
One of the big wins was securing better equipment. His security company provides each officer with a baton, handcuffs and pepper spray. But the officers noticed the 2% spray they were using had little effect. And the chain hand-cuffs that were issued were difficult to use and too small for most situations.
The union officers approached management and were able to address their concerns. “Now each of us is provided with cans of natural 4% mace and larger hinge-hand-cuffs that are much easier to control,” he says. “We are working to see if we can get bullet-proof vests right now.”
He encourages all security officers to stick together in a union. “With a union we have a voice and can bring things up. Management didn’t know about the problems and we were able to work with them to fix it,” he says. “The reason we have any of this—the healthcare, equipment and paid training—is because we joined together in our union and fought for it. I hear horror stories from non-union officers all the time.”
Jesse says he is glad he can be out there every day helping the community. “We patrol and assist people the best we can. And when folks come up and thank us for our hard work, well, I love that,” he says.