About 75 security officers, janitors, and community members gathered this afternoon for a rally outside the Motorists Insurance building downtown. Workers, elected officials, and faith leaders called on Columbus business leaders to support better pay and access to health insurance for the service employees who work in downtown office buildings.
“Janitors and security officers—who clean and protect the offices of Columbus’s Fortune 1000 companies—are among the thousands of people in our city who work full time and still qualify for public assistance programs like food stamps and Medicaid,” said Laurie Couch of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
Janitors and security officers have met with resistance and retaliation for engaging in union activity. At Motorists Insurance, a security officer was removed and reassigned to a lower-paying job after speaking out about working conditions, Couch said.
“Companies like Aetna have told janitors that there’s going to be a wage freeze for two years,” said SEIU Local 1organizer Liliana Castillo. “They want to cut full-time workers’ hours to part-time. If their hours are cut, they lose access to their health insurance.”
Security officers are organizing to get health care and better wages, but Universal Protection Service has not come to the table with them yet, Castillo said.
“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 Universal. “My wife is sick, and because I don’t have affordable health care through my job, we both have to rely on Medicaid.”
“Unfortunately we’re in a position where those at the very top take advantage of the very poor,” said State Representative Mike Foley (D-Cleveland).
“No one working for these companies should be on public assistance,” Foley said. “Business owners should not be keeping workers in poverty. It’s unfortunate that we should have to fight against this selfishness and greed at the very top.”
“Your bosses go to church and sit in the Lord’s house, wearing fancy suits and dresses, and they won’t pay you a fair wage,” said Pastor Eric Brown of Woodland Christian Church. “God wants everybody to live well. God does not want employees being used to make other folks rich.
“If your bosses want to act like they know God, they need to show that they know God by paying you a living wage.”