SEIU 32BJ Security Officers Martin Luther King Day Vigil outside City Hall. Baltimore MD

Del. Cory McCray attends a candlelight vigil in support of security workers negotiating for higher wages on Jan. 16 in front of City Hall. (AFRO Photo/Roberto Alejandro)

Security workers are fighting for higher wages and increased benefits from two major security contractors operating in Baltimore City, after organizing under a property service workers union.

Faith leaders as well as city and state politicians have expressed support for the workers, who have been collectively bargaining with Admiral Security and Crown Security since September.

“I personally make $13.39, and the cost of living is, of course, more than that,” said Christopher Savoy, a security employee with Admiral and one of the bargainers organized under 32BJ SEIU, the largest property service workers union in the country. “Every day we’re living paycheck , waiting for the next paycheck and striving to pay our bills.”

According to Savoy, his limited wage, combined with the part-time hours worked by most security employees, make it difficult to keep a roof over his head and afford things like food or healthcare.

“I was sick in the past and really couldn’t afford to go to the doctor’s,” said Savoy, who also spoke of a fellow union bargainer who he said was forced to go to a local food pantry each month to meet her food needs, and others who rely on public assistance.

“Taxpayers shouldn’t have to subsidize a company’s poverty wages,” said Julie Karant, a spokesperson for 32BJ SEIU.

On Jan. 16, security workers and community leaders held a candlelight vigil in support of the workers’ attempt to gain better wages and benefits through the collective bargaining process. The vigil was attended by Elder C.D. Witherspoon, president of the Baltimore Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Coalition, as well as Maryland General Assembly Delegates Antonio Hayes and Cory McCray.

“As we look through Baltimore City and we see that many communities within Baltimore are enduring poverty rates as high as 50 percent, as we see the wage stagnation or wages decreasing, but we see jobs coming, we have to make sure that those jobs coming pay a good living wage, affordable healthcare, and a dependable retirement,” McCray told the AFRO. “Those are key assets that are going to build our communities.”

The security workers are seeking higher wages, health benefits, paid sick days, and bereavement leave, among other concessions, in their negotiations with Admiral Security and Crown Security.

The Baltimore City Council has unanimously passed a resolution, introduced by council president Jack Young, supporting the workers in their efforts.

“Private security officers should be permitted to exercise their right to organize with the labor union of their choice to negotiate for family-sustaining wages, access to quality health care, and a healthy working environment,” the resolution reads in part.