Conn. private guards authorize possible strike
HARTFORD, Conn.—Private security guards who work in several state office buildings in Hartford voted Wednesday to authorize a possible strike, saying their employer has failed to make pension contributions required by a state contract.
In an announcement at the state Capitol, the workers said that a majority of the approximately 50 affected guards agreed to authorize a strike, if necessary. The final vote tally was not yet available.
"We are ready to strike if need be," said Matt Anderson, one of the guards. "We are ready to take unprecedented measures to stand for what is right."
Besides allegedly failing to make the retirement contributions, the workers accused the company of using intimidation tactics against the workers, who are attempting to unionize with 32BJ, which is part of the Service Employees International Union. The workers, who earn anywhere from $9.56 to $12 an hour, say they also cannot afford the health insurance offered to them and often rely on state taxpayer-funded health insurance and other public assistance.
The guards work for SOS Security Inc. at buildings housing the Department of Public Works, the Office Policy and Management, the Department of Developmental Services, the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services and other agencies. The Connecticut chapter of the union 32BJ is attempting to organize the guards and has been advising them during this process.
A person who answered the phone at SOS's East Parsippany, N.J., headquarters said the company had no comment.
Kurt Westby, district supervisor for 32BJ, praised the officers, who he called brave, for making the "tough decision to stand up for what they think is right." He said there are a total of several hundred guards employed by at least five private firms contracted to provide security services in state buildings. He said the union is preparing for similar strike authorizations by those other workers.
"Connecticut should not subsidize companies that put people into poverty," he said.
The union has requested that the Department of Administrative Services conduct an audit of SOS Services, reviewing whether they've made proper pension payments, paid correct holiday rates and wages, and provided working safety equipment such as radios. The union also requested that DAS review of the cost of the offered health insurance coverage, which can cost as much as $585 in co-pays every two weeks for a family plan.