Security Companies Plan Talks With Union

Monday, June 25, 2007

The three biggest providers of security guards to commercial office buildings in the District say they will negotiate for the first time with a union, the Service Employees International Union, for a contract covering 1,200 workers.

Executives at Securitas Security Services USA, AlliedBarton Security Services and Admiral Security Services confirmed the planned talks, which the local SEIU said it will announce tomorrow.

The workers, who have over the past two years signed cards indicating they want SEIU representation, account for 60 percent of the 2,000 security guards the union estimates work in the District.

Valarie Long, vice president of the SEIU local chapter, said the union plans to try to represent all such workers in the District, Maryland and Northern Virginia, though she said the effort could take several years. Similar talks are also underway or set to start in other major cities, she said.

The union's goal is to raise standards for the guards, including requiring security companies to provide better training, better health care and, most of all, better wages, she said.

A typical guard might make $8.24 an hour, Long said. The union hopes to raise the minimum to more than $10.

"That would pump a great deal of additional money into the communities where these workers live," she said.

The union hopes to have a new contract for the District security guards by fall, Long said.

Jim McNulty, executive vice president of Securitas Security Services USA, said the company has good relations with SEIU in other cities.

"We agreed to the talks because we feel their goals and our goals are very similar," he said. "We have less turnover and a better experience all the way around in cities where workers are represented by collective bargaining. And our profit margins are better. It's a win-win for both sides."

Spokesmen for Admiral, based in Bethesda, and for Allied, based in King of Prussia, Pa., declined to comment beyond confirming that the companies have agreed to contract talks with the union.

The SEIU represents more than 1.8 million workers.

-- Kathleen Day

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