Security officers picketed Monday morning near 8th Street on Nicollet Mall in a one-day strike to protest what union officials termed “unfair labor practices” by three of the Twin Cities largest security contractors.
The strike was called after negotiations broke down Saturday night between the union and contractors Securitas, American and ABM. Union members are demanding affordable health care from their employers, said David Zaffrann, a spokesman for Service Employees International Union (SEIU) local 26.
ABM employee Natalie Woods of St. Paul was among a handful of picketers outside the U.S. Bank Building just before noon as many Downtown workers left their officers for lunch.
Woods, a single mother of four children, said she could not afford the $50 co-pay required under her employer’s health care plan on her hourly wage of $10.37. Instead, she opted to get health insurance through MinnesotaCare, a state-subsidized health insurance program.
Zaffran said Woods’ situation was typical of Twin Cities security workers. More than 80 percent of union security workers surveyed said they couldn’t afford their employers’ health plans, and about 70 percent have no health insurance at all, SEIU reported.
“That’s not just a problem for security workers, that’s a community problem,” he said.
Kiley Gordon, who worked in the U.S. Bank Building, said she was unaware of the strike until she learned about it on the way into work Monday. Gordon said she valued the protection provided by the workers, and she supported their call for more affordable health care.
Mike Skogen, who commuted from the northern suburbs to work in the U.S. Bank Building, said he did not support unions and was against the strike. Skogen said if he was disappointed with his employer;s pay and benefits he would look for another job.
Bill Moore of St. Paul, a retired member of the public employees union who was picketing in support of security workers Monday, said the low percentage of security workers opting into their employers’ health plans was a sign.
“It tells me that working people are not getting a fair reward for their labor,” Moore said.
SEIU had two more rallies scheduled Downtown Monday. Picketers planned meet again at 5 p.m. outside the U.S. Bank Building and rally at 6 p.m. near the intersection of 7th Street and 3rd Avenue, near the Hennepin County Government Center.