“Ten thousand [private security] officers throughout Los Angeles County,” he said, “are paid approximately $6 an hour less than janitors. When you add that up, the 10,000 officers times $6 an hour times eight hours a day, you’re talking about $500,000 a day being pulled out of our community.”
Was he worried that presenting the organizing drive as a black civil-rights campaign would alienate the 30 percent of security officers who aren’t black?
Turning the tables on a security guard (Photo by Steven Mikulan)
“No,” Lee replied, “because it’s really a campaign for working people. Throughout the history of civil rights in our country, any time African-Americans have fought for civil rights, it benefits all working people. We as a community are concerned because of the high unemployment rate among African-Americans and because this industry employs a significant number of African-Americans.”
The fact remains that the security industry, which has grown exponentially since 9/11, has not raised the standard of living for nonunion guards.
“They were better off [a few years ago],” said Lee, who himself once worked as a guard. “As the economy goes, so go the service industries that are on the lower end of the pay scales. The squeeze on working-class people takes place. The profits of your capitalists are significantly improved.”
Martha Cox-Nitikman, BOMA’s L.A. lobbyist and senior director of government and public affairs, declined to discuss the civil-rights issues raised by the Stand for Security Coalition. “I think what we need to focus in on,” she said, “is that there is something different now than a few months ago. There is now a sentiment for the owners to participate in the negotiations. The question would be what role they will play, because it’s really up to the contractors to decide the individual contract details.”