Leading Figures Back Better Wages For Private Security Officers

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Rep. Charles Rangel, former Mayor David Dinkins, leaders from the NAACP, ACORN and the clergy have called on building owners, tenants and business to professionalize New York’s private security officers by raising wage, benefit and training standards.  Nearly 200 community, religious and labor leaders came together at the CUNY Graduate Center to highlight the industry’s adverse economic impact on African-American and minority communities and launch a city-wide community campaign to raise standards for New York’s security officers.

“Making New York safe and secure by improving private security is everyone’s responsibility,� said former Mayor Dinkins. “Because we depend on security officers to keep us safe and our buildings secure, they must be trained in the latest, state-of-the-art security procedures and kept on the job with a living wage.�

More than 60,000 men and women in New York, mostly African-American, work as private security officers.  Although security officers serve on the front lines of keeping our city safe, many of them earn less than $10 per hour and receive little, if any health care and inadequate security training. “Providing security officers with living wages and job training overcomes some of the hurdles that hold African-American men back from providing for themselves and their families and contributing to their community,â€? said David Jones, President of the Community Service Society (CSS).

In support of the campaign for private security officers, Local 32BJ has asked CSS to conduct a study on the plight of private security officers and their impact on the African-American community. The study, to be released early next year, will continue CSS’s ground-breaking research on the adverse impact of low-wage jobs on the African-American community. In light of the 9/11 Commission’s findings that “private sector civilians are likely to be the first responders in nay future catastrophes,â€? U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel has called on Congress and the Bush Administration to provide security officers with the specialized security training they need.    
“Private security officers are New York’s first line of defense and an integral part of our homeland security,� said Rangel. “It’s alarming that four years after 9/11 most private security officers have still not received the specialized training they need to keep us safe and the pay they deserve and need.� According to the 9/11 Commission, 85% of our nation’s critical infrastructure is controlled by the private sector.

In February, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People passed a resolution supporting the Service Employees International Union’s efforts to organize security officers and encouraging state and local chapters to “challenge security companies, building owners, and others who interfere.â€? 

“As the nation’s largest civil rights organization and leading advocates for equal opportunity, the NAACP calls on the real estate industry to provide living wages and affordable health care to the security officers that keep their buildings safe,â€? said Hazel Dukes, President of the New York State NAACP.  “Any responsible advocate for the African-American community should strongly support the campaign for private security officers.â€?

“We put our lives on the line every day to protect millions of people and billions in real estate,â€? said James Barnes, a security officer employed by Elite Investigations. “In my eight years as a security officer, including service on 9/11 and the Power Blackout, I have seen little improvement in my wages, benefits and training.  Since 9/11, I have received no additional training.â€? 

In an open letter to the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), the group called on REBNY President Steven Spinola to sign a declaration in support of the campaign to raise wage, benefit and training standards of security officers in New York City.  The letter was personally delivered to Spinola’s office by a delegation led by representatives of the clergy, ACORN, NAACP and Local 32BJ.   

“We demand the real estate industry take immediate and concrete steps to raise standards for private security officers, including wage and benefit standards,â€? said Bertha Lewis, Executive Director of NY ACORN. “The irresponsible and unjust treatment of private security officers is unacceptable. We call on all responsible leaders and groups to work together and fight this multi-billion dollar industry until we win.â€?   

“For the benefit of security officers and their families, and the safety of all New Yorkers, the time has come for the real estate industry to finally step up, act responsibly and provide security officers what they need and deserve,â€? said Kevin Doyle, Local 32BJ Executive Vice President, New York’s largest security union. 

With more than 75,000 members, including 60,000 building service workers in New York, Local 32BJ is the largest private sector union in New York City and the largest building service union in the country. “Our communities have a moral obligation to stand together and ensure that thousands of African-Americans and other minorities are paid a living wage and treated with dignity and respect,â€? said Patricia Malcolm, Minister and Secretary of CUSH.  “The well-being of these individuals, their families and our communities is at stake.â€?  

“Neglecting the very people who keep us safe is unjust to them, undercuts the economic vitality of their communities and compromises the security of all New Yorkers,� said David Paterson, Democratic Leader of the NY State Senate.

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