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Embattled union SEIU in ad campaign

A labor union representing security officers in San Francisco office buildings, engaged in fruitless contract negotiations and competition for workers
Embattled union SEIU in ad campaign

George Raine, Chronicle Staff Writer Thursday, February 6, 2003

A labor union representing security officers in San Francisco office buildings, engaged in fruitless contract negotiations and competition for workers' loyalties, started an advertising campaign Wednesday that contends building security and guard training are inadequate.

The campaign seeks support for citywide standards on building security. More specifically, the union is seeking a citywide contract that the security guards union has been unable to negotiate with the private security companies that hire them.

The union is the Service Employees International Union Local 24/7, in San Francisco. SEIU gained entree to the security guard sector in San Francisco in May when it merged with the International Union of Security Officers. Today, it is the bargaining unit for about 2,000 San Francisco private security officers.

The campaign was revealed at a news conference Wednesday in San Francisco, at which Andrew Stern, the SEIU international president from Washington, D.C., said the union is unable to even engage security firms in a conversation about industry standards, training needs and stabilizing the workforce, let alone negotiate a contract.

"After (Sept. 11), I don't know what in the world they are thinking," said Stern. "Low wages and substandard benefits for security officers make job turnover in the sector comparable with the fast-food industry and that is just not acceptable," he said. Stern said that proved "the industry continues to be driven by the bottom line above all else, and it is proof the industry has not risen to the challenge since Sept. 11."

The matter is more complex than fruitless negotiations, however. A rival union, the Security, Police and Fire Professionals of America, based in the Detroit area, is engaged in an aggressive campaign to organize as many as 160, 000 California security officers, said David Hickey, the international president.

"In my opinion they (SEIU) need to take more time in representing low-paid janitors and health care workers," Hickey said, referring to two groups the union represents, "and stay out of the security business."

SPFPA the largest security police union in the United States today had just filed a citywide election on behalf of hundreds of Pro-Tech Security officers who no longer want to be represented by a "JANITORS UNION"

SPFPA is also set to file a citywide election on behalf officers working for Allied Security and as recently as last week SPFPA had filed several elections on behalf security officers working for Pinkerton, Burns, and Sentinial who also wish to disifiliate from the SEIU Local 24/7.

Steve Maritas, SPFPA Organizing Director had stated
"SEIU's campaign is nothing more then a SCAM and the Security Officers working in both San Francisco and Los Angeles know it". What does Jarro Shaffer or Thomas Balanoff know about negotiating security officers contracts, absolutly NOTHING. "How could they, their both former low-paid janitors."

Several contracts SEIU members have with private security companies have expired and differences are not being resolved because those companies believe there is a built-in inequity in the process. About four years ago, the International Union of Security Officers negotiated five-year contracts with two security companies in San Francisco, while two years is the norm, said Sergio Reyes, an owner of ProTech of San Francisco, which has about 800 private officers.

Thus, there is an imbalance in wages and benefits in the industry. At the same time, building owners with high vacancy rates are pressured to lower costs.

The ad campaign that first appeared on Wednesday begins with the premise that security practices and training of officers is inadequate.

Marc Intermaggio, executive vice president of the Building Owners and Managers Association of San Francisco, took exception to that claim.

Of the headline in the ad, "Has Enough Been Done to Improve Security in Buildings," Intermaggio said, "That is certainly an unfortunate way to get attention."

He added, "We can always work to better meet the needs of office building tenants, but office building safety and security has always been a concern of building operators and we did not need Sept. 11 to be reminded of the importance of tenant and visitor security."

Research for the SEIU found that 48 percent of security officers say that the buildings in which they work do not conduct any emergency drills, and that 65 percent say that their buildings do not conduct earthquake drills. About 67 percent do not conduct bomb-threat drills, and 76 percent never conduct arrest- procedure drills.

As SEIU's Stern announced the campaign Wednesday, he was joined by San Francisco Sheriff Michael Hennessey; John Hanley, president of the Firefighters Local 798; Chris Cunnie, president of the Police Officers Association; and Larry Bradshaw, a San Francisco paramedic, all of whom endorsed the union effort.

E-mail George Raine at  graine@sfchronicle.com.