Seattle-area unionized guards get healthcare agreement

March 4, 2008
Union and managers reach agreement on healthcare, removing one block to contract negotiations

Seattle-area unionized security officers and their managers have reached an agreement on health care, eliminating a major sticking point in contract negotiations.

"The parties reached agreement last night on a comprehensive health care package," security companies spokesman Guy Thomas said Wednesday.

"Last night was a huge step; it was a very important step and cleared the way for us resolving other issues."

The Service Employees International Union Local 6 represents about 750 officers, or 75 percent of the security officers in downtown Seattle and Bellevue.

The bargaining went from noon until about midnight, said Sergio Salinas, president of SEIU Local 6. Under the tentative medical agreement, the employers will pay about 80 percent of medical benefits. Within three years, the employers will cover 95 percent of health care costs, Salinas said.

"That's a huge, huge improvement," he said.

Affordable health care was a pivotal demand for unionized security officers - the issue drove them into the streets to protest during negotiations. Two union members were politely arrested during a rally in downtown Seattle on Monday.

A final contract has not yet been reached. It would be the first security guard union contract in Seattle, and negotiations have dragged on for more than a year.

The companies involved in the negotiations are Northwest Protective Service Inc., Securitas Security Services USA Inc., AlliedBarton Security Services and ABM Security Services. The union says that Star Protection Agency has agreed to accept whatever contract is reached, but is not at the bargaining table.

Security companies in San Francisco and Los Angeles also have recently reached health care agreements with their security officers.

Both sides have agreed in principle to a three-year contract with minimum wages set at $12 per hour for officers in large buildings and $11 per hour for others, the union said. The contract also would give an immediate raise to most security officers working in the region, both sides said.

The security guards work in most of the buildings in downtown Seattle and Bellevue. They have said that their spiffy uniforms belie their low wages.

The building owners, who contract out security services, are staying out of negotiations, said Rod Kauffman, president of the Building Owners and Managers Association of Seattle and King County.