Security Officers in Rhodes Tower and Riffe Center Raise Safety Concerns [The Examiner]

by Steve Palm-Houser, May 8, 2013

Security officer John Johns, with State Representatives Debbie Phillips and Robert Hagan.
Photo by Steve Palm-Houser

Columbus security officers say that inadequate training and high turnover are compromising their ability to ensure public safety in downtown office buildings, including Rhodes Tower and the Riffe Center.

“When constituents and other individuals come to Capitol Square to work on public policy issues, they should feel secure,” said State Representative Debbie Phillips (D-Albany) in a press conference yesterday at the Ohio Statehouse. “Both of these buildings are high profile, very public facilities and we have a responsibility to ensure that citizens are safe and free to get involved in state government.”

In a November 2012 survey conducted bySEIU Local 1, 71% of the 14 Rhodes Tower and Riffe Center security officers said that their overall training was not “adequate to fulfill the duties of [my] post.” 86% said that high turnover affects how well their building is protected.

“I have worked as a security officer for more than a decade,” says Riffe Center security officer John Johns at the press conference. “I know that my ability to do my job could have life or death consequences in an emergency. That’s why we’re here today demanding the tools and training that our employer is supposed to provide.”

140 security officers who work in downtown Columbus are employed by Universal Protection Service. More than half have signed authorization cards saying that they want to be represented by a union. Universal has not yet met with the security officers or recognized their demand for a union, said SEIU Local 1 organizer Amy Teitelman.

“Hard-working security officers in Columbus are paid wages that qualify them for public assistance, and despite the potential for injuries on the job, few officers can afford health insurance,” said State Representative Robert Hagan (D-Youngstown). “So not only are taxpayers essentially subsidizing this irresponsible company’s profits, we’re not getting the security we’re paying for.

“I’ve been opposed to privatization since Voinovich started with privatization of prisons,” Hagan said. “When I first started here with the legislature, security was provided by people who were paid decently, given health care benefits, and given pension benefits.”

SEIU filed a complaint with the Ohio Department of Administrative Services on Monday and published a report yesterday alleging that Universal’s inadequate training and equipment are in violation of its contract with the State of Ohio.

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