Private security guards who work in a handful of state buildings announced Wednesday that they were prepared to strike “if need be” after months of what they say amounts to intimidation and strong-arm tactics by their employer, SOS Security.
In an announcement at the state Capitol, workers said SOS Security is obligated by its contract with the state to make pension contributions, but hasn’t been making them. The workers allege that they have been harassed by SOS Security since the expressed interest in joining the union by signing union cards last summer. As they have not yet joined the union, there is no contract between SOS and 32BJ, but the workers said they are prepared to strike based on the stipulations of the contract between SOS Security and the State of Connecticut.
Union officials said a majority or roughly 35 of the 50 security guards voted to authorize a strike, but an official vote tally wasn’t available.
“Si se puede” [“Yes we can”] was the cry from Kurt Westby, 32BJ Connecticut’s director, as he spoke before the mostly Latino security guards.
“Connecticut should not subsidize companies that put people in poverty . . . But that’s what happens when government contracts with firms that create poverty jobs,” he said.
Westby said that the workers make so little that many qualify for taxpayer-subsidized health care. The security guards make between $9.50 and $12 an hour.
Matthew Anderson, a security guard who works at the 450 Capitol Ave. complex, said that “SOS Security has responded to our lawful union organizing efforts with intimidation tactics, interrogation, and this is unacceptable. We are ready to take unprecedented measures to stand for what is right.”
Anderson said he has worked at 450 Capitol for about two years.
Axel Morales, an 18-year veteran security guard, said that “SOS Security has ignored our concerns.”
“This is something that has been going on for too long,” Morales said. He also alleged that the company has been surveilling union meetings.
Norman Therrien, state operations manager for SOS Security, was in the room for the rally, but left immediately after the vote.
A representative at the company’s offices in New Jersey declined to comment.
The 450 Capitol Ave. complex houses numerous state agencies, among them the departments of Public Health, Mental Health and Addiction Services, and Developmental Services.
The workers were joined by a number of local elected officials from Hartford as well as the General Assembly.
Shawn Wooden, president of the Hartford City Council, was among them.
“It offends me when contractors that purport — when it’s time to get the business — and they say ‘We will do right by our workers, state of Connecticut,’ and they don’t. And so we shouldn’t have to stand here today,” he said. “But we are here to say ‘enough is enough.’”
Sen Edith Prague, D-Columbia, made a brief appearance during a break from the nearby death penalty debate in the Senate to lend her support to the workers.
“We’ll stick together and we’ll get it done,” Prague told them.
Editor’s note: This story was updated to clarify that the security guards have signed cards to join a union, but no union has been formed.