Jamila Culcleasure was born and raised in Seattle, where she currently lives near her parents and siblings. In high school, she would spend time with the school security officers—talking about their role in service and safety. That led to her joining the local Police Explores Club—a youth program designed to educate teenagers interested in law enforcement and related fields. She fell in love with it and it led to her current job—as a security officer.
Jamila’s been an officer for six years now. She worked for Security Industry Specialists (SIS) protecting Amazon’s Headquarters and now works for another security contractor protecting one of the world’s most successful social media companies. “I absolutely love my job. I guard the front desk, secure company events and make sure our equipment is up to code,” she says.
She is also part of a strong officer union—SEIU 6--and the growing Stand for Security movement with more than 50,000 security officers across the nation. The aim is to raise standards across the industry--including increasing pay, benefits and training programs for guards.
“I love being part of the union. My pay increased by more than $3 dollars and I make $18.40 per hour now,” she says. “I don’t have to work two full-time jobs anymore just to keep up with bills. I have one well-paid job. So I have time to care for my family and to get back into hiking.”
It wasn’t always this way for her, especially when she was employed by Security Industry Specialist protecting Amazon Headquarters in downtown Seattle. SIS has come under fire recently for its treatment of officers--including a 2015 federal investigation where SIS settled allegations that it interfered with officers’ rights to form a union at Amazon HQ and settled charges with the city of Seattle over complaints of violating the city’s sick time law at the tech campus.
On top of this, SIS officers who protect Amazon HQ say they have not seen a cost of living raise in more than four years and face poor working conditions including favoritism, and most recently, unfair treatment around race and religious practices. They’ve reached out to SIS and Amazon to address these concerns--through office visits, emails and a petition calling for wage increases and a fair process to unionize signed by over 300 guards. But nothing has changed.
Jamila can relate to that. With its booming economy, Seattle is an expensive city. When she worked for SIS, Jamila says things were hard for her too. On what she was paid, she couldn’t afford to get sick. She worked as much over-time as she could to help with bills. And she had to live almost two hours from her job site just to afford rent. She felt alone.
“Things improved when I joined the union. It makes things easier. Officers have each other’s back and we are treated fairly,” she says. “I have paid-time-off days and more benefits. If I have a problem, I have a way to solve it.”
Right now Jamila has applied to join the Seattle Police Department—her lifelong dream. In the meantime, she encourages any officer out there to join the union. “For all my SIS officers out there, don’t be afraid to join the union. We are here to help protect and fight for our fellow officers. If you are being unfairly treated, if you need something, we are here for you,” she says.