Skyline of Richmond, Virginia

D.C. Security Guards Get Union Contract


By Alejandro Lazo
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 14, 2008; Page D01

Four private security contractors have reached an agreement with a union to raise wages and provide benefits to about 1,500 security guards working in the District’s office buildings.

The agreement, signed last week by the Service Employees International Union and Admiral Security, AlliedBarton, Guardsmark and Securitas, is the first union contract for private security guards working in commercial buildings in the District.

The agreement is part of a national campaign by the SEIU to organize security guards. The deal covers about three-quarters of the District’s office building security guard workforce, the union said.

The security guards will earn at least $12.40 per hour or receive a raise of at least 50 cents per hour, whichever is more. The final contracts went into effect Wednesday.

“It means they are starting to respect the security guards,” said Raquel Mack, 21, of Northeast Washington, who began working for AlliedBarton two years ago while attending the University of the District of Columbia. “We are the first line of defense if anything happens downtown. We have to protect most of the people and their property.”

The companies agreed to pay for health insurance for all full-time workers. Part-time officers will not get health insurance, but they and their families will receive employer-paid benefits such as prescription drugs, dental care, vision care and life insurance.

“We are very excited,” said Valarie Long, vice president of SEIU Local 32BJ. “There are about 1,500 workers whose lives are going to improve, at least economically.”

The agreement caps a four-year organizing effort by Local 32BJ, which represents more than 100,000 workers in six states.

The SEIU has about 10,000 workers in the Washington area.

The union worked with the D.C. Council last year to pass the Enhanced Professional Security Amendment Act, which sets the minimum wage for security workers at $11.51 per hour and benefits at $3.16 per hour. The law went into effect Wednesday, the same day as the contract, and gave the union extra leverage in its negotiations.

“By requiring fair wages, we are taking an important step to address our City’s staggering poverty rate,” council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), the lead sponsor of the act, said in a statement.

AlliedBarton said in a statement that it was “pleased” to have reached the agreement.

Todd Carroll, a senior vice president with Admiral Security Services, said, “I think it is good for the industry. There are a lot of companies that don’t give the wages and benefits they should to their officers.”

The commercial office buildings where the security officers work include Gallery Place, the Watergate offices, the National Press Building, the National Geographic building and National Public Radio headquarters.

Atlantic City Casino Workers Fighting for First Contracts


Atlantic City Casino Workers Fighting for First Contracts

by James Parks, Apr 28, 2008

Aneil Patel and his co-workers at Caesars Atlantic City want a first contract.

Despite overwhelming votes by workers at four Atlantic City casinos in favor of forming a union with UAW, management at the four casinos continue to stall and delay negotiations to avoid granting the nearly 4,000 workers a voice at work.

At a press conference last week, New Jersey State AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech said:

The casino dealers and slot technicians fight to organize and management’s opposition to the workers’ freedom to form a union clearly illustrates that the current system for establishing a union in America is broken and is skewed in favor of employers. It is a system that is in desperate need of reform and thousands of workers in Atlantic City are unfortunately victims of this failed system.

Since March 2007, a majority of casino dealers, dual-rate dealers and other workers at Caesars, Tropicana, Bally’s and Trump Plaza in Atlantic City have voted in favor of UAW representation. Bargaining is under way at Caesars and Tropicana; the union at Bally’s has just been certified; and Trump Plaza is still trying to delay certification before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

Aneil Patel, a dealer at Caesars, says the casinos have a history of not dealing workers a fair hand.

If you look at the history of the casinos, they don’t want to give us anything. Wages are falling, and benefits are falling. If you look at inflation, we don’t keep pace. The base salary, 29 years ago, was $3.75 and now, the starting rate for a dealer is $4. Are you telling me that in 29 years, the cost of living only went up by 25 cents? We are handling the money for the casino. It looks glamorous, but behind the scenes, we can’t even put food on the table.

The workers received good news last week when the NLRB confirmed a June 2007 election victory at Bally’s and certified the UAW as the union chosen by full- and part-time dealers, keno and simulcast workers. The NLRB ruling upheld the Oct. 18, 2007, decision of Administrative Law Judge David Goldman, who dismissed all of Bally’s objections to the election and found the vote to be valid and binding.

The workers are gaining strong backing from elected officials and the community for a fair contract. Atlantic City Mayor Scott Evans, Atlantic and Cape May Counties Central Labor Council President Roy Foster and several members of the state legislature demonstrated their support of the workers by signing a petition defending their right to bargain fair contracts.

Mayor Evans says union jobs are good for the city:

Most workers in our gaming industry are members of labor unions. This has been good for Atlantic City. We are a better place to live when our citizens work under contracts with good wages and good benefits.

Earlier this month, Atlantic City Council members unanimously passed a resolution supporting the casino workers’ right to a fair contract and called on all casinos in Atlantic City “to stop treating gaming workers as second-class citizens, to negotiate fair contracts, and to join us in improving our community.”

Meanwhile, the casino workers are working to insure their workplaces are safe by pushing for a city ordinance that would guarantee all city casinos are completely smoke-free. City Council members unanimously supported adding casino workers to a measure banning smoking in public places.

Terry Shindel, a dealer at Caesars, says the ordinance is overdue:

This is exactly why we joined together to form our union. People have been talking about cleaning up the air on the casino floor for years—but now that we’re working together as a union, we’re getting real action.

The smoking ban, which will go into effect Oct. 15, was supported by the UAW, the New Jersey Group Against Smoking Pollution and other public health organizations.

UAW Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Bunn says the union is “committed to assisting casino workers who want a voice in public policy, just as we assist workers who want a voice on the job through collective bargaining.”

There is a powerful and exciting movement for change among gaming industry workers all across the country, and the UAW is proud to be part of it.

Don’t Call Me a Protectionist by Senator Sherrod Brown


It’s easy to play bumper-sticker politics with trade. But it gets us nowhere.

When Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton came out against the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) in the run up to Ohio’s presidential primary last month, they also spoke about U.S. trade policy generally. They mentioned problems with China’s currency, toxic toys and contaminated food, and communities wrecked by plant shutdowns and lost jobs.

But conservative economists and a lot of newspaper editors heard only “Nafta” and saw only “protectionism.”

Our country deserves a real debate on trade, not a debate where labeling one side protectionist is game, set and match.

The supporters of our trade policy rarely mention our exploding trade deficits. In just 15 years, our annual trade deficit has mushroomed to over $800 billion from $38 billion in 1993. With Mexico, our trade surplus evolved into a $90.7 billion trade deficit. With China, our trade deficit jumped to $250 billion today from about $22 billion. President George H.W. Bush once estimated that a $1 billion trade deficit represents 13,000 lost jobs. Do the math.

One country’s deficit is another country’s surplus. Our annual trade deficit helps fuel the growth of government-owned investment funds overseas. Free traders rarely mention these funds even as they proliferate.

Nonetheless, today, five governments control more than $2 trillion that they use to buy stocks and other assets in America and other countries. So far, the funds controlled by the People’s Republic of China and the United Arab Emirates have been passive investors. So far.

Advocates of free trade rarely want to debate the fact that unregulated trade with China has recently allowed toys with lead paint, contaminated toothpaste and poisonous pet food into this country. We take for granted our clean air, pure food and safe drinking water. But these blessings are not by chance: They result from laws and rules about wages, health and the environment. Trade agreements with no rules to protect our health, the environment and labor rights inevitably create a race to the bottom and weaken health and safety rules for our trading partners and for our own communities.

But cheerleaders for current U.S. trade policy, while mostly shrinking from a debate about the issues that matter to middle-class America, insist that those of us who want more trade – but trade under a very different set of rules – are protectionists.

I guess it depends on what you want to protect.

Eight times I have taken an oath of office to “support and defend” the United States. My colleagues and I commit ourselves to protecting our nation “from all enemies, foreign and domestic.” That includes protecting our neighborhoods from unsafe products. And, yes, that also means protecting our workers and businesses from unfair competition.

The Colombia Free Trade Agreement is being shopped around Congress by an overzealous White House. Let’s put aside, for now, the debate about rewarding a country that has done little to stem the tide of rampant labor abuses and human rights violations – including dozens of murders.

Let’s focus on the merits of the agreement. Supporters sell it as a free-trade agreement, a great opportunity for American companies because it eliminates tariffs on our products. If that were true, the agreement would be a few lines long.

Instead, we have a trade agreement that runs nearly 1,000 pages and is chock full of giveaways and protections for drug companies, oil companies, and financial services companies, and incentives to outsource jobs now held by Americans.

Nafta. The Central American Free Trade Agreement. China. Now Colombia. We have a pattern in our trade policy that aims to protect special interests, but betray our workers, our environment, our communities.

Let’s stop accusing one another of being protectionists. And let us agree that U.S. trade policy – writing the rules of globalization to protect our national interests and our communities – is worthy of a vigorous national debate.

Mr. Brown, a Democratic senator from Ohio, is the author of “Myths of Free Trade” (New Press, 2004).

## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ##
EDITOR’S NOTE: Found this article on