Cleveland downtown security guards demand better pay and benefits

CLEVELAND — Demands for better wages and benefits are fueling the organized labor movement in Cleveland. On Thursday, security guards gathered in Playhouse Square with the support of Local 1 of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

“Is Cleveland a union town?” one person shouted during the rally.

“Yes!” the group of several dozen people responded.

According to SEIU Local 1, union and non-union security guards have been trying to work with Playhouse Square leaders for weeks to improve working conditions. He called Royce-US Protection Service, which provides security for many buildings in Playhouse Square, an “irresponsible security contractor” and said it “brings down labor standards in Cleveland.”

“They need to be respected for the work they do and not disrespected because of it,” said Yanela Sims, Ohio State director for SEIU Local 1.

She said the average salary for security guards employed by the company was $13 an hour.

Melvin Barnes, Jr. worked security at the AECOM building on St. Clair and E. 9th St. for 17 years under several contractors, including Royce-US Protection Service. He told News 5 that he took the job while attending college to become a music teacher, but struggled to save enough money to complete the required courses.

“It’s a shame that my pay and benefits haven’t kept up with the time I’ve put in, and especially with inflation,” he said.

Barnes also lamented the lack of paid time off. During the pandemic, he said it was difficult to return home to New Orleans for two separate family funerals.

“[The expense] had to come out of his pocket. There was no bereavement leave, no kind of leave, nothing. And I had to borrow money,” he explained.

He and others gathered on Thursday to believe that union representation and collective bargaining power would help bolster wages and benefits.

A group of downtown Cleveland SEIU janitors showed solidarity with the group. They made similar demands before unionizing in 2019.

RELATED: Hundreds of Cleveland Janitors Demand Better Pay, More Respect

“Our jobs are related because in the social strata of most buildings, we are the amoeba,” said Leonard Thomas, who worked as a janitor downtown for 15 years.

Thomas said joining a union improved his pay and working hours.

Sims added: “You deserve no less than anyone who goes to work and does a good job every day. And that’s the message that a lot of workers at these properties want to get across. »

News 5 contacted Royce-US Protection Service about the story and spoke to Chairman and CEO Joe Conley by phone. He declined to comment on the organizing efforts, but defended the company’s treatment of employees.

“I can tell you that we meet and exceed industry standards for compensation and benefits,” Conley said. “I am convinced that we exceed the standards in the way we treat our employees. This is evident in the longevity of many of our security officers.

Sims countered, “My answer to that is – talk to his employees. Its employees are the ones who see the paycheck and experience what it is like to be one of its employees.

She said the next step is a discussion between security guards, their employer and Playhouse Square leaders about wages, benefits and working conditions, before formal talks about unionization.

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