HARTFORD — Nearly 40 security guards who work in state buildings have failed to persuade their private employer to negotiate a first union contract, though they joined the Service Employees International Union, Local 32BJ a year and a half ago.
Wednesday, some of those guards were joined by labor officials from other local unions and a smattering of politicians, and after a few short speeches, the group of about 80 people marched a half-mile in the bitter cold, starting in front of a state building near The Bushnell arts center.
Many carried signs that said "I Am a Man," an echo of the Memphis sanitation workers' signs in 1968. Martin Luther King Jr. had traveled to their strike to support them, and was assassinated during that trip.
Even without a contract, the union has gotten some results for the workers. It convinced the state that it should conduct an audit to determine whether the company, SOS Security of New Jersey, was paying the rates described in its contract with the state. It is obliged to pay between $9.23 and $12.30 hourly, depending on experience.
Because the company was not paying the full rate to some workers, and did not give time and a half on holidays, it paid about $16,000 in back wages to about 30 workers. It later gave thousands in back pay to former workers.
Wilfredo Rodriguez of Hartford said he has been an SOS security guard for more than eight years and makes $12.30 an hour. He said he hasn't had a raise in seven years.
Rodriguez said he wanted to join a union "to be respected. They don't want to listen to us."
He said so far, the union hasn't gotten them a voice with the company. "It's always the same thing. They refuse to sit down with us," he said.
The company declined to comment for this story.
Rodriguez said they would continue the fight.
Under terms of the company's contract with the state, the company is required to maintain "a tranquil working relationship between the Contractor work force, the Contractor Parties and their work force. ... The Contractor shall quickly resolve all labor disputes."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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