Security guards prepare to strike in metroby Rupa Shenoy, Minnesota Public Radio
MINNEAPOLIS — Nearly two months after their contract expired, 2,500 security guards in the Twin Cities metro area say they'll hold a one-day strike this week.
Hundreds of workers represented by the Service Employees International Union Local 26 met at South High School in Minneapolis Sunday to discuss the status of contract talks with several metro-area employers.
Union negotiators reached a tentative agreement for some 4,000 janitors who clean buildings in the metro area, after 31 hours of talks.
But contract talks for the guards have stalled. Their contract expired Dec. 31. Employers walked away from the bargaining table Friday, according to union negotiators, and proposed resuming talks in mid-March. But SEIU says workers felt they couldn't wait that long.
The guards want more full-time jobs and affordable health care. Demetruis Moore has worked as a guard in a downtown Minneapolis office building for five years, working weekend and overnight shifts.
"And that's when you run into that bar crowd or club, scene or whatever," Moore said. "Not that they're a bad crowd, but they can become bad at some point."
Moore says people don't seem to take security guards seriously.
"It's kind of like we're wanna-be police or something like that," he said. "But we do a very important job because we're there when the police aren't. To be honest I think we actually get attacked more than the police do, because of the lack of respect."
Moore adds it would be nice to at least get respect from his employers.
Frank Anthony II, a guard at the EcoLab corporate headquarters, says if businesses think security guards are easy to replace, they're wrong.
"I'm on a first-name basis with 90 percent of the people in three buildings that are around me," said Anthony. "If somebody's there who's not supposed to be there, I'll recognize them and I'll say, 'Excuse me, can I help you? Let me direct you where you're supposed to be.'"
Anthony wants to be able to cover his wife and young son with his health insurance.
Five years ago, Anthony and other security guards held a one-day strike, and he says that previous experience makes him more comfortable this time.
"I'm not scared to do it. And most of the people I've talked to aren't scared either," he said. "A lot of the people are like -- when are we going to do it? let's do it."
Anthony says he just got his tax return back, so his family can afford it if the one-day strike is extended.
SEIU representative Javier Morillo says the workers are prepared.
"We'll have a targeted, limited, and very strong strike that is aimed at getting them back to the table," said Morillo. "And should that not happen, then we'll have an extended strike. And if it has to get bigger, it will get bigger."
The union says the tentative agreement covering the janitors includes "major gains" on full-time positions, wages and health care.
Several employers involved in the negotiations declined to comment, or did not respond to requests for comment from MPR News.
- Morning Edition, 02/25/2013, 6:20 a.m.