Private downtown Detroit security guards at Bedrock-owned buildings are preparing to go on strike at 6 a.m. Thursday as they try to unionize and get $15 hourly wages.
The strike date was announced by Service Employees International Union Local 1.
“For months, downtown Detroit security officers have been building their case for union rights and at least $15, but their employer has responded by threatening to retaliate against them,” SEIU Local 1 said in a news release.
The guards are employed by Atlanta-based SecurAmerica, which is the primary security contractor in downtown for businessman Dan Gilbert’s Bedrock real estate firm. SecurAmerica last year replaced Securitas USA in that role.
The private guards, who number several hundred, are not members of a labor union, but will nevertheless walk off their jobs Thursday to “demand their employer, SecurAmerica, allow them the right to form their union with a fair process, free of interference and intimidation,” the SEIU release said.
The union is calling the workers’ planned action an unfair labor practices strike, which under federal labor law would prohibit an employer from firing or permanently replacing them.
Labor law also extends protections to nonunion employees who protest work issues.
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SEIU claims the security firm has intimidated guards who want to unionize and in some instances demoted them.
In response to the strike announcement, SecurAmerica issued a statement saying it has raised security guards’ wages 13% to 19% since taking over the Bedrock contract in July 2018.
The company said it employs 340 security guards for nearly 100 downtown Detroit properties, which it intends to service without interruption Thursday.
SecurAmerica also claimed that the majority of the guards do not want to join a union and questioned the legal authority of SEIU to call a strike and tell people to skip work.
“SecurAmerica prides itself on providing a fair and respectful work environment with a competitive wage and benefit package and opportunities for advancement for all employees,” Ron Hall, the company’s vice president for human resources, said in the statement.
“The vast majority of our security officers in downtown Detroit enjoy the direct relationship they have with our management and they have no interest in being represented by any third party,” he added.
A Bedrock representative did not respond to a comment request.
Picket lines are expected outside several Bedrock-owned buildings, including the First National Building, One Campus Martius, One Woodward Avenue, Chrysler House, Chase Tower, Ally Center and the old Federal Reserve on Fort, which houses the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News.
The union says that about 200 SEIU Local 1 janitors, in a show of solidarity, will refuse to cross the picket lines or clean the Bedrock buildings.
The security guards are currently paid between $11 to $13 per hour, the union said, and many of them must work a second job to earn a decent living.
A labor rally for the striking security officers is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Thursday outside Ally Detroit Center, 500 Woodward.
Detroit resident Micah Brown, 19, plans to join her SecurAmerica colleagues in Thursday’s walkout.
She said she earns $12.50 an hour working as a lobby and patrol officer in the One Woodward Avenue building, or 50 cents more per hour than when she started with Securitas in April 2017.
Brown, who resides with family on the city’s east side, said she can’t imagine ever gaining the ability to live on her own at her job’s current wages. She feels sorry for older colleagues who have families to support.
“Everyone is afraid of retaliation. That’s why it’s taken us so long to get to this point,” she said. “But it will be worth it because we need to get our $15 and our union rights.”
Contact JC Reindl: 313-222-6631 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jcreindl. Read more on business and sign up for our business newsletter.