Blogs Brought Attention To The Security Guard Strike

Over the last few weeks I have been writing about the plight of security guards working for a company called Inter-Con, a contractor at Kaiser Permanente Hospitals in California. One post I wrote on this was titled, Why Don’t We Hear About Labor Issues Anymore? and I want to get to that subject some more here. But first, I want to go over what was covered.
The security guards went on strike because their employer was interfering with their right to form a union. The first post, Security Guards Striking for the Right to Have Our Laws Enforced

This strike is not against Kaiser and is not to ask for money or benefits; it is not even to form a union in the first place. This strike is just to ask that our laws please be enforced. This may be a lot to ask for in today’s corporate-dominated system, but they’re asking for it anyway.

The second post, Why They (And You) Need A Union, asked,

How else are workers going to get back their rights, get health care, get pensions, and get paid? If you see a better idea out there, please let us all know because this strike and the things happening to these security guards shows that it is very very difficult to form a union. In today’s environment where workers are afraid of employers moving their jobs overseas – or even just laying them off and telling everyone else to work harder – and then giving their pay out as raises to the executives and multi-million-dollar bonuses to the CEO, this is a very brave action to take.

Then, in Unions: Sticking Together to Fight Corporate Power,

You and I are individuals, alone. But corporations have the ability to amass immense power and wealth and influence. You and I as individuals must stand alone against this power and wealth. What can you or I or anyone else do on our own? The average person in our society has very little ability to stand up against this kind of power and wealth.
Over time people discovered that there are some things they can do that will work. One of these has been to form unions. By joining together the workers in a company can amass some power of their own. The company needs the workers in order to function so the workers — if they stick together — have the ability to make the corporation obey employee/employer laws, provide decent pay, and all the other benefits that the unions have brought us. This is why they are also call “organized labor.” By organizing into a union and sticking together people have the ability to demand respect and compensation for their work.

There were also some other posts with news about the strike itself.
In the post Why Don’t We Hear About Labor Issues Anymore? I wrote,

A few local TV news broadcasts covered the story, and there were a few newspaper articles announcing that there was going to be a strike. But there was almost no actual coverage of the strike except on progressive sites and labor outlets. What’s up with that?

This is a significant problem with today’s corporate media. There is overwhelming coverage of business issues like the stock market, investment, mergers and CEO personality profiles. There is story after story pushing new products, cars, bigger houses, consumption, even listings of which movies are making more money than other movies – as if that was a concern to ordinary people.
But there is very little coverage of issues that might help regular people live their daily lives. And in particular there is no, none, nada, negatory, zero coverage of ordinary working people fighting back against the corporate domination of our democracy and other decision-making, including the commercialization of everything.
Labor issues are a big part of that equation. Organized labor is the vehicle that enables regular people to fight back against domination by the big corporations. Big corporations are able to aggregate immense wealth and power. Individuals have no change standing against such wealth and power on their own. But banding together they do. And the more that band together, the better the chance to stand up to the wealth and power of the corporations.
But not if people don’t find out that they can’t do this. And that is where the blogs come in. I was able to post the stories about the security guards’ strike at Huffington Post, MyDD, Seeing the Forest, and in DailyKos and Calitics diaries. Other sites like AlterNet picked up these stories and passed them along to their readers. In this way literally millions of people were able to learn about this strike, which helped raise awareness of the situation as well as apply more pressure to Inter-Con, the employer as well as to government agencies responsible for enforcing the labor laws. If stories like this can be kept entirely quiet strikes like this would be completely ineffective. But if the blog-readers and other progressives start demanding that laws be enforced and workers be allowed to organize, we can start to make a difference.
Please visit StandForSecurity.org.
I am proud to be helping SEIU spread the word about this strike. sfs-234x60-animated-v2

Security Guard Strike Interview – Learning To Be Proud

I had the honor of interviewing one of the Inter-Con/Kaiser security guards who went on strike to demand their right to form a union. I will identify him as E so there is no opportunity for Inter-Con to retaliate.
I asked what was it like to decide to join a strike?
E: It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever experienced. I got to know my coworkers more than I already did. Knowing that more than one location was going through this, that Inter-Con wasn’t screwing over one location only, but was a statewide thing, helped me. It was good to meet other officers from other locations and know that we are in this together.
I asked if E feels like the strike accomplished anything.
E: After the first strike, that was the new experience. After this second strike it felt like what do we do now, nothing is happening, but after going to the last meeting and seeing the third wave of tactics I feel like we will have a union. After the last strike it felt like, how long are we going to fight, until Kaiser and Inter-Con acknowledges our union? Now that is my feeling that we are going to win.
I asked why are you doing this? Why do you want a union?
E: We want better wages, sick pay, paid vacations. A lot of our officers have to have two jobs. There is no longevity. Any company wants employees to stay for a long time but when you get paid $10 you are in and out pretty fast. We want a union. Having a union is unifying all of us so we have that one voice, we are not standing alone.
We are striking because the company is not letting us have a union and we have a right to have a union. They are spying on us, things like that.
After the first strike I was afraid to go back to work, afraid I wouldn’t have a job. But after the second strike I walked in with my chest out.
I asked what is it like for people making $10 an hour.
E: I make more than that but a lot of them are on call, no fixed schedule. They walk parking lots. There are rovers who walk around. They get calls from the hospital site – code grey, that’s a security incident, a patient or an employee. Or code blue is someone going cardiac arrest, they call out to one of the rovers. Some codes all of the security guards have to go to that location. They’re there to do crowd control. You have some emotional patient families. Then after that whole ordeal we write reports…
There are people who do injury to themselves or others, a lot of them are alcoholics, brought in by the cops. We stand by them, hopefully they won’t lash out at us. We also do standbys at the morgue.
Me: You don’t get sick pay.
E: We call off, we lose money.
Me: So do people go to work sick?
E: I don’t. I’ve heard people go in sick.
Me: What about other people getting sick? You work in a hospital, doesn’t making people work sick endanger the patients?
E: I wouldn’t go in if I was sick. I just lose the money.
I encourage you to visit StandForSecurity.org.
I am proud to be helping SEIU spread the word about this strike. sfs-234x60-animated-v2

Kaiser Security Guard Strike

This week I wrote about the Kaiser Permanente / Inter-Con Security Security Guard strike.
The post Security Guards Striking for the Right to Have Our Laws Enforced discussed why the guards are striking. They are employees of Inter-Con Security, Inc., which contracts services to Kaiser Permanente facilities in California. This company (not Kaiser) is trying to stop the guards from forming a union and the guards are striking to ask that laws allowing union organizing be enforced.
In Why They (And You) Need A Union a comparison with unionized security guards at Kaiser facilities in other states demonstrated the difference that forming a union can make to workers everywhere.
The post Unions: Sticking Together to Fight Corporate Power discussed how individuals are unable to stand up against the immense power and wealth that corporations are able to accumulate. Over time workers learned that by organizing into unions they were able to also build enough power to fight back and demand fair compensation and benefits for their work.
Outside of the blogs there was remarkably little coverage of this strike. Here is a roundup of some of the other coverage:
This is a good story online at Urban Mecca, Three-Day Strike by Hundreds of Security Officers at Kaiser Hospitals,

“The public needs to know that the security officers responsible for making Kaiser hospitals safe and protecting vulnerable patients are being denied our fundamental civil rights. Inter-Con freely uses intimidation, spying and retaliation to harass its workers,” said Shauna Carnero, a security officer in Hayward.
The strike, which began May 6 and included major rallies outside Kaiser medical centers in Oakland, Sacramento and Los Angeles, followed numerous federal complaints that workers have filed with the National Labor Relations Board in recent weeks charging Inter-Con with unfair labor practices over the past two years.

The Pasadena Star-News had Kaiser guards strike,

Hospital security guards went on strike statewide Thursday, citing poor working conditions and lack of health coverage.
About 200 Southern California employees of Inter-Con Security, which is contracted by Kaiser Permanente to provide security guards, joined their Northern California counterparts who have been on strike since Tuesday, Service Employees International Union officials said.
[. . .] Security guards have little legal recourse when they are denied the right to organize, an SEIU attorney said. A loophole in the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 gives security guards only one method of forming a union.
While most employees have the option of holding an election to bring in a union, security guards can only organize if their employers agree to recognize the union, said attorney Orrin Baird.
“It’s sort of out-dated,” Baird said. “If they were not guards they could file a petition with the (National Labor Relations Board) and then they would have to have an election.”

While a few local TV stations carried news about the strike, there was a near-blackout of coverage in the corporate media. WHy do you think that is?
Please visit StandForSecurity.org.
I am proud to be helping SEIU spread the word about this strike. sfs-234x60-animated-v2

Why They (And You) Need A Union

Yesterday I wrote about the security guards who are striking at Kaiser Permanente because their contractor-employer is engaging in illegal tactics while trying to block them from forming a union. The guards work for Inter-Con Security Inc., which is contracted by Kaiser to provide security services.
You can read articles with details about what happened with the strike yesterday here and here. (There is close to zero coverage of this strike in newspapers. But you wouldn’t expect a corporate-owned media to provide information about labor, now would you?)
Please visit the site Stand for Security for background and details about the security guards’ fight to form a union.
While this strike is about violations of workers’ rights, there are very good reasons for their three-year effort to form a union.
In Oregon, the state just north of California, Kaiser Permanente security guards are employed by Kaiser, not by a contractor. They are unionized and here is a short chart of just some of the difference this makes.

In-House Union (ILWU)
Kaiser Security Officers
Inter-Con Officers at Kaiser
Wages $15 – $18 per hour
(Oregon has a much lower
cost of living)
As little as $10.40 per hour
Raises $.70 – $1.45/hour annually,
depending on seniority
(Guaranteed in writing!)
No schedule, no guarantee
Free Family Health Care YES NO
Health Insurance Elegibility 20 hours worked “Full-time”, which for many
officers means 1-2 years of
working 40 hours a week before
qualifying for health insurance.
Bereavement Pay 3 days paid time off none
Sick Leave 1.6 hours per pay period
(Time accrues)
none
Jury Duty Paid off as needed none
Pension YES none
Grievance Procedure YES none
Shift Differential $.90/hour evenings
$1.25/hour nights
none

This chart is an example of the difference that a union makes. The column on the left — the one with better pay, health care, sick days, pension and other benefits — is the workers who are in a union. The column on the right is these security guards. So this is why these security guards have been fighting for three years to join a union. The employer, Inter-Con Security won’t even give sick days! For people working in hospitals! What are these workers supposed to do? And they won’t even pay when the workers have jury duty! (Shouldn’t a company be concerned about the greater public good, like a court system that works?)
But this chart is also representative of other workplaces, showing the difference that forming a union can make for other workers. How else are workers going to get back their rights, get health care, get pensions, and get paid? If you see a better idea out there, please let us all know because this strike and the things happening to these security guards shows that it is very very difficult to form a union. In today’s environment where workers are afraid of employers moving their jobs overseas – or even just laying them off and telling everyone else to work harder – and then giving their pay out as raises to the executives and multi-million-dollar bonuses to the CEO, this is a very brave action to take.
On top of that, the Republican government has stacked the labor Department and the National Labor Relations Board to side with the big corporations. So it is even harder to form a union than ever. Which is, of course, why wages are stagnating and CEO pay is off the charts.
This is why these workers are striking — to demand that their civil rights be honored and to demand that their right to form a union be honored. These security guards are placing everything on the line — and doing this for all of us. If they win this fight, all of us are a step further toward our rights being honored, and toward our own jobs paying more and giving benefits.
I am proud to be helping SEIU spread the word about this strike. sfs-234x60-animated-v2.gif

Security Guards Striking for the Right to Have Our Laws Enforced (updated)

There is a three-day strike starting today at Kaiser Permanente hospitals in California. 1800 security guards are striking for three days in an “unfair labor practice” action. This strike is not against Kaiser and is not to ask for money or benefits; it is not even to form a union in the first place. This strike is just to ask that our laws please be enforced. This may be a lot to ask for in today’s corporate-dominated system, but they’re asking for it anyway.
Here is some background:
Rather than directly employ security guards Kaiser contracts with a company called Inter-Con Security Systems, Inc. Inter-Con hires and manages the security guards for Kaiser, paying them very little and giving them few benefits – not even sick leave. So these security guards, even though they work at Kaiser, (some for many years), are paid far less than other security guards at Kaiser facilities in other states, and receive few benefits. Kaiser is one of the more responsible, unionized companies for its workers, which makes this situation even worse for these workers.

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