Desiree Johnson wakes up at 4am each morning and takes a long bus ride to Amazon HQ in Seattle. It’s where she works as a security officer, protecting people and property. “I love the work—meeting talented people, enjoying my fellow officers and co-workers,” she says. “And employees are allowed to bring dogs to work. It makes me happy to see them walk in here every day.”
Her job is to make sure everyone is logged in, accounted for, and has the appropriate access to secure spaces.
Right now Desiree is paid $15.50 an hour for her work. Living in Seattle on that wage—being one of the most expensive cites in the country--is tough on her family. The only apartment they could afford has black mold. “It’s old and falling apart and we pay way too much for it,” she says. “I see million-dollar homes getting built all over while they are tearing down the affordable places.”
Desiree works for Security Industry Specialist (SIS), the security company Amazon contracts with to guard their Headquarters. She says the officers haven’t had a pay raise in more than four years. She recently signed a petition, along with 300 guards who protect the tech giant, demanding SIS offer yearly pay raises.
She is also pushing for SIS to create a fair process for officers to form a union. “SIS is really unprofessional at times. It creates unfair working conditions. It’s why we want to form a union with SEIU6, so that we can make things fair,” she says.
Desiree says many officers see favoritism as a big problem that brings down morale. She recently witnessed a supervisor give a new officer the opportunity to rotate work assignments, something SIS says is not allowed. When she pointed this out and made a statement to management, she was told “to just deal with it.”
She says officers do not feel like they are treated with respect from day to day. She mentions a situation that happened last month that deeply saddened her. “My co-workers’ mother was passing away. He took two weeks off to stay with her in the hospital. She died during that time and he asked for a day off to attend her funeral. It was denied,” she says. “He went to the funeral anyway and SIS wrote him up for it. It’s the most disgraceful thing I have ever witnessed.”
It makes her worry about her own family situation. Her Aunt, who is the nanny to her two year old son, is losing a battle with lupus, and she wants to make sure she can get the much-needed time off to help during the transition.
She says management can be aggressive in how they interact with officers. A supervisor recently asked her to stop talking to Amazonians as they check in the lobby. He said, ‘you have too big a personality. Just shut up when the employees are walking in. Don’t say anything.’
It’s why she is pushing to join the union with SEIU6. She wants to be part of a nation-wide movement of 50,000 union security officers working to improve conditions for officers. “We work at a successful high tech company. We need a union to hold SIS accountable, to be more professional and respectful,” she says.
In the meantime, her fiancé works maintenance and is part of a union. “On the days we struggle to find daycare, his job is much more understanding with life’s situations,” she says. “I’m going to keep pushing for things to better. I know we will win.”