Security guards who patrol GW-owned buildings are now earning several dollars more per hour after four security guard contractors and a union negotiated a pay increase this month.
Representatives of the local Service Employees International Union announced last week they signed four-year contracts with D.C. security guard contractors Securitas, Admiral Security, AlliedBarton and Guardsmark. The contract offers guards a minimum pay of $12.40 per hour – a 50 cent per-hour raise – whichever is greater. Fulltime workers will also receive health insurance.
“Until you actually see it, you don’t think it’s real,” said SEIU organizer Bernard Hackett, referring to the wage increase. For many of the security guards, this is their first raise in several years, he said.
Securitas guards patrol the Shops at 2000 Penn and offices located at 2100 Penn, both GW-owned buildings. The company has 100,000 employees and 350 office locations throughout the U.S.
Before the contract took effect this month, Securitas paid guards a starting wage of $8.75 per hour. Many guards said they considered this wage too low to cover the cost of living in the District.
The contract is not just about the money, but it “brings a certain degree of professionalism” to the job, Hackett said. “Now I feel proud of the work I do and the compensation I receive for it.”
Two security guards patrolling 2000 Penn Friday said they were suspicious that their paychecks would be any different when they heard their $9 an hour wages were increasing to $12.40 an hour.
“Let’s wait and see,” said a male guard, who did not give his name for fear of retribution from his company. He said he does not expect his life to change much with the raise, calling it “pocket money.”
“It’s not going to do much,” said a full-time female guard who also wished to remain anonymous. “Not much is going to change.”
Bargaining for higher wages began last August. SEIU organized groups of security guards to approach members of D.C.’s city council and ask for their support. Union organizers also surveyed security guards asking them to rank the importance of demands like pay and health insurance.
This year, GW students in the Progressive Student Union sent letters to University President Steven Knapp and Executive Vice President and Treasurer Lou Katz urging them to put pressure on Securitas to raise wages for their guards. Katz wrote back explaining GW “does not interfere with wage determinations made by independent companies and their workers.”
Senior Matthew Brokman, president of the Progressive Student Union, said administrators showed a lack of caring toward people who are not part of the academic community.
“We are disappointed the University did not take more aggressive action themselves,” he said.
Freshman Steven Muse, a member of the PSU, said he would like to think his organization contributed to the union’s success. He called the wage increase “badly needed” and said he knew a security guard who was homeless three times while he was working for Securitas.
“When we heard that these security guards were not making enough money to live on when we go to the most expensive school in the country . we felt it was our duty to work on this,” he said. Organizers agree the pay raise will result in an improvement in the quality of life for many of the guards.