For security officers in central Ohio, the struggle for a union contract has been a long one. In April 2013, security officers and janitors held a rally for a living wage and affordable health care outside the Motorists Insurance building in downtown Columbus.

“I’m committed to my job, but it’s hard to get by on low wages with no benefits,” said Thurman Elliot, a full-time security officer employed by Allied Universal. “My wife is sick, and because I don’t have affordable health care through my job, we both have to rely on Medicaid.” 

Decades ago, downtown office buildings employed security workers in-house, with decent pay, benefits, and pensions. But in recent years these jobs have been outsourced to contract companies who have paid security officers only slightly over the state minimum wage, with few or no company benefits.

Nearly five years later, on September 29, security officers celebrated a historic victory on the steps of Columbus City Hall: the first labor contract for security officers in the state of Ohio. They were joined by State Representative Kathleen Clyde, City Council President Zach Klein, and City Council member Elizabeth Brown, along with labor and community allies.

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1negotiated the three-year contract, which covers about 300 security workers. The agreement guarantees significant wage increases that place security officers on a path to a living wage. They will also receive paid training, paid holidays, jury duty days, and improved vacations over the life of the contract. Health insurance has also been greatly enhanced in the agreement.

“It is exciting for me and all of the officers that I work with,” said Portia Walker, a security officer for G4S at the Huntington Center. “We go to work every day and work hard, and our jobs are important. This contract makes us feel like we are finally valued.”

The officers are employed by Securitas, G4S, Allied Universal, Ohio Support Services, and St. Moritz Security Services. They protect office buildings for the State of Ohio, Huntington Bank, AEP, Franklin County, OPERS, Motorists Mutual Insurance, and others.

“When workers win the right to unionize, they've won the ability to use one collective voice and bargain for their economic rights,” said City Council member Elizabeth Brown. “Better wages, healthcare, and benefits lift up families and communities — and, as a result, our whole economy.”

SEIU is the largest security officer union in the United States, representing more than 8,000 officers in the Midwest and 50,000 nationwide.