SEATTLE -- The Seattle City Council has called for "high quality training" and benefits for privately employed security guards who protect the city's downtown office towers.
The council unanimously approved a resolution Monday calling for guards to receive wages that are enough to live on, health insurance and a citywide uniform contract. The resolution does not require any action by security firms that employ the guards.
"We're making these increasing demands on security officers since Sept. 11 (terrorist attacks), and yet their situation hasn't improved and the quality of the industry hasn't improved, either," said Steve Marquardt, an organizer with the Service Employees International Union Local 6.
Union officials estimate annual turnover at 100 percent to 300 percent among the 600 to 800 guards who work in the downtown core, earning an average of $11.02 an hour or $21,158 a year. The union is attempting to organize them.
The union contends that buildings are less safe when the guards may have been on the job for only months.
Rod Kauffman, executive vice president of the Building Owners and Managers Association of Seattle and King County, which represents many of the downtown office towers, said training may differ among buildings depending on the property owner's needs.
"We all want better security," Kauffman said. An embassy or a building occupied by the federal government will likely have a high level of security and thus more training for officers, he said.
Clark Kimerer, Seattle assistant police chief, said private officers provide a valuable service by watching over buildings that police can't patrol themselves.
"These are big buildings," he said. "They are cities unto themselves."