Tag Archives: Security

Report: Universal Protection Service and the Private Security Crisis in Our Nation’s Cities

This report, based on in-depth interviews with security officers, set out to study training standards at mid-level companies in mid-sized urban centers. The first phase of the study focused on only one security provider– Universal Protection Service–in two cities Indianapolis and Columbus.

Read: Universal Protection Service and the Private Security Crisis in Our Nation’s Cities.

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Columbus Security Workers: We Need More Training [ABC 6]

by Dana Jay, May 7, 2013

COLUMBUS (Dana Jay) — Security officers in the building where thousands of people, including the governor, go to work say they have not been properly trained by the company that hired them.

The guards, who are employed by Universal Protection Services, work in the Riffe and Rhodes office towers on Capital Square.

Gov. John Kasich, members of the House of Representatives, Attorney General Mike DeWine, Treasurer Josh Mandel, and hundreds of state employees work in the high-rises.

According to Service Employees International Union Local 1, which filed a complaint with the state on behalf of the officers, Universal Protection Services is required by it’s contract with the state to provide quarterly training for employees.

Nine workers signed affidavits to support the complaint in which they claimed the company had not provided quarterly training or training specific to screening packages. Officers also indicated that employee turnover is compromising security.

The complaint comes as the officers work towards unionizing.

Universal Protection Services provided a statement Tuesday, which read in part:

“We are addressing recent allegations from SEIU local 1 with the State of Ohio Department of Administrative Services, as we believe it is important to handle any alleged security issues at public buildings in a confidential manner.”

The company goes on to say it is “proud of the work our security professionals perform each day.”

Watch full video coverage here!

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Columbus Security Workers: We Need More Training [Fox 28 Columbus]

by Dana Jay, May 7, 2013

COLUMBUS (Dana Jay) — Security officers in the building where thousands of people, including the governor, go to work say they have not been properly trained by the company that hired them.

The guards, who are employed by Universal Protection Services, work in the Riffe and Rhodes office towers on Capital Square.

Gov. John Kasich, members of the House of Representatives, Attorney General Mike DeWine, Treasurer Josh Mandel, and hundreds of state employees work in the high-rises.

According to Service Employees International Union Local 1, which filed a complaint with the state on behalf of the officers, Universal Protection Services is required by it’s contract with the state to provide quarterly training for employees.

Nine workers signed affidavits to support the complaint in which they claimed the company had not provided quarterly training or training specific to screening packages. Officers also indicated that employee turnover is compromising security.

The complaint comes as the officers work towards unionizing.

Universal Protection Services provided a statement Tuesday, which read in part:

“We are addressing recent allegations from SEIU local 1 with the State of Ohio Department of Administrative Services, as we believe it is important to handle any alleged security issues at public buildings in a confidential manner.”

The company goes on to say it is “proud of the work our security professionals perform each day.”

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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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Service Workers Call on Columbus Business Leaders for Fair Wages, Healthcare [The Examiner]

by Steve Palm-Houser, April 29, 2013

Photo by Steve Palm-Houser

About 75 security officersjanitors, 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.”

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Columbus Service Workers And Supporters Rally With Elected Leaders [Progress Ohio]

by Bret Thompson, April 30, 2013

On Monday, State Representative Mike Foley joined about 75 Columbus security officers,  janitors, and community members for a rally outside the Motorists Mutual Insurance building downtown. Workers, faith leaders, and elected officials called on business leaders of Columbus to support the good jobs our city needs to stanch the rapidly rising poverty rate.

As the unemployment rate in Central Ohio continues to drop, concentrated poverty in our city has doubled. This is because more and more jobs in Columbus pay very low wages that trap working families in a cycle of poverty. Janitors and security officers-who clean and protect the offices of Motorists Mutual and Columbus’s Fortune 1000 companies-are among the thousands of working people in our city who can work full time and still qualify for public assistance programs like food stamps and Medicaid.

Low-wage workers in Columbus have been standing up for living wages, health care and fair treatment on the job. But janitors and security officers have met with resistance and retaliation for their efforts, including at Motorists Insurance, where a Universal security officer was removed and reassigned to a lower-paying job after speaking out about working conditions.

“I’m committed to my job, but it’s hard to get by on low wages with no benefits,” says Thurman Elliot, a full-time officer employed by Universal Security in Columbus. “My wife is sick, and because I don’t have affordable health care for myself or for her through my job, we both have to rely on Medicare.”

Service workers and community members are calling on Columbus corporations and the Columbus Partnership to do their part to alleviate poverty in our city and create a more sustainable future by creating good jobs and paying workers fair wages. The Columbus City Council has already expressed support for living wage jobs for service workers in an open letter addressed to Columbus business leaders.

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Lawmakers criticize EAA for taking DPS money, not training officers [Detroit Free Press]

by Chastity Pratt Dawsey, April 26, 2013

Democratic lawmakers attacked the state’s school reform district Friday for using Detroit Public Schools as a conduit for $12 million in loans and for inadequately training security officers.

Democratic state senators Coleman A. Young II of Detroit and Bert Johnson of Highland Park called the Education Achievement Authority of Michigan a threat to children at a news conference outside the state’s offices in Midtown.

“EAA should not exist, period,” Johnson said.

The lawmakers’ accusations come as the state Senate is considering a bill that would establish the EAA in law and allow it to include 35 more schools statewide. Young said he does not support the bill, but he intends to introduce an amendment that would require more training for EAA security officers who currently do not receive training in first aid or CPR.

The security concerns come on the heels of accusations against the EAA from Rep. Ellen Cogen Lipton, a Democrat from Huntington Woods, who said the EAA had stalled and charged her $2,642.05 for documents she requested under the Freedom of Information Act last month. Lipton released the information this week, including documents that show that Detroit Public Schools took out loans through the Michigan Finance Authority’s state aid note program and gave the money to the the EAA to pay its bills.

DPS — and the state — have an interest in the financial viability of the EAA. The EAA pays DPS for food services, information technology and police services. DPS also still owns the 15 school buildings that the EAA took over and about $10 million in lease payments will be due this summer. DPS is run by a state appointee, emergency manager Roy Roberts.

DPS took out a $6-million loan in September and passed the money on to the EAA to help with start up costs. The EAA repaid the loan in January and paid DPS an $87,000 markup on top of $30,000 in interest, said John Covington, chancellor for the EAA. In February, DPS took out another $6-million loan and passed the money on to the EAA. That is due to be paid off by July 22.

The board was never presented with information on the transactions, EAA board president Carol Goss said Friday. The board was not required to approve the transactions, according to the Michigan Department of Treasury.

“It was not illegal. It was not a matter of going into smoke-filled back rooms to get it done; it was to make sure the children of the EAA would get everything they needed,” Covington said, “Once we become a statewide school district in the law, then we can do the same things other school districts are doing — that’s the crux of the problem.”

DPS acted as a conduit for the loans at the request of the state, according to DPS spokeswoman, Michelle Zdrodowski. Under the agreement with Eastern Michigan University that created the EAA, DPS can provide advances and services to the EAA, she said in a written statement.

Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer, along with Sen. Vincent Gregory, a Democrat from Southfield, also issued statements condemning the governor and the EAA for using DPS to borrow money.

The EAA is the reform district for the lowest performing 5% of schools in the state that started educating students last fall by taking control of 15 schools in Detroit. It was formed in 2011 with support from Gov. Rick Snyder.

The EAA used DPS to get the loans because the EAA does not have authority to do so, said Caleb Buhs, a spokesman for the state treasury department. Legislation approved last month by the House and pending in the Senate would give the EAA the ability to take out loans backed by state aid payments, a common practice.

The EAA’s security issues gained attention last month after the EAA reported an increase in crime in its schools for the first half of the school year compared with last year. EAA contracts with Prudential Security for guards.

Gerald Collins, executive vice president for Prudential, said the firm provides training, but is not required to provide first aid and CPR training.

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EAA safety questioned by two Michigan lawmakers (The Detroit News)

by Jennifer Chambers, April 26, 2013

State Sen. Coleman Young III, D-Detroit, announced Friday morning he will introduce a measure that would mandate a higher level of training for contracted security workers in EAA schools. (David Coates/The Detroit News)

Detroit — A day after a $6 million loan to the Education Achievement Authority from Detroit Public Schools was made public, two state lawmakers said they have concerns about student safety at EAA schools.

State Sen. Coleman Young III, D-Detroit, said Friday morning he will introduce a measure that would mandate a higher level of training for contracted security workers in EAA schools.

Young said officers have told him they lack basic training in CPR, experience high turnover among staff members and get little support from contractor Prudential Protective Service, the company hired by the EAA to provide security officers at all 15 schools.

“I’m not going to wait for a tragedy to happen. That’s why I’m introducing an amendment that will put our kids’ safety first. Companies that receive taxpayer dollars need to abide by the law and ensure the highest safety standards for our children,” Coleman said as he stood outside Cadillac Place, which houses offices for the state of Michigan, which operates the EAA.

Coleman said he would attach the amendment to current EAA bills moving through the Michigan Legislature. He wants action before the state moves to expand the EAA, the statewide system for failing schools.

State Sen. Bert Johnson, D-Detroit, also called for further scrutiny of EAA security officials, saying a lack of safety for students “is another indictment of this failed experiment.”

Robert Booker, an EAA security officer, said he was recently injured responding to a gang fight at Central High School

“We find knives, guns, drugs all the time,” Booker said. “Officers are doing the best they can, but Prudential isn’t helping us. Officers come and go all the time because we don’t have the training and support.”

EAA Chief of Staff Tyrone Winfrey said the district contracts with two agencies — the Detroit Public Schools Police Department and Prudential Security — to provide security services.

“We take any allegation of unsafe conditions seriously and are ready to thoroughly investigate each allegation if we are provided with the details so that we can follow up. At the same time, to the extent this is an attempt by the SEIU to organize Prudential employees, that is an issue between Prudential and the SEIU,” Winfrey said.

A Prudential official said the claims are inaccurate and unfair and are rooted in an attempt to unionize the security guards rather than a sincere concern for students and staff at the EAA schools. The guards make $9 an hour, the company said.

“This is politics at its worst. Rather than taking the proper steps to organize our employees, the union is exploiting children in an attempt to discredit Prudential and its employees,” Gerald Collins, company executive vice president, said.

An official with Service Employees International Union Local 1 in Detroit confirmed that SEIU is trying to organize Prudential Security guards, including those at EAA schools.

Chris Siller, Michigan coordinator for the union, said the guards aren’t being paid overtime and none are trained for CPR. Earlier this month, The News reported that in the first five months of the EAA school year, school authorities documented more than 5,000 discipline-related infractions across 15 school buildings in Detroit, ranging from fights to truancy to gambling and disorderly conduct.

The number of reported incidents skyrocketed in the second quarter, from mid-November through the end of January, when 4,000 infractions piled up, including 1,000 truancy cases, 986 disorderly conduct incidents, 63 drug possessions, 33 firearm possessions and 22 physical assaults against staff.

Also reported were 876 cases of insubordination and 52 cases of threats of violence or coercion.

The data represent the first assessment of behavioral problems among the 10,000 students at the EAA schools, which were under Detroit Public Schools management until last fall.

The report’s release comes after the Detroit Police Department disbanded its Gang Squad and sent officers into jobs outside schools and neighborhoods. At the same time, Michigan lawmakers are debating bills to expand the reach of the EAA and codify it into state law.

The News reported Friday that administrators at the EAA took $6 million in loans from the cash-strapped Detroit school district without approval from EAA board members.

EAA board secretary Mike Duggan told The News on Thursday he learned of the secret loans from a constituent Wednesday night, but he never heard of the loans at monthly EAA board meetings, which he says he regularly attended.

“The board has never approved a loan from DPS. I’m pretty confident the board was never advised of it, either,” Duggan told The News.

The loans came to light this week in documents obtained by state Rep. Ellen Cogen Lipton, D-Huntington Woods, through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The EAA is a newly formed statewide school district created by Gov. Rick Snyder to take over the state’s lowest performing schools. DPS loaned the EAA the $6 million by borrowing the money through the Michigan Finance Authority, with repayments guaranteed based on the EAA’s future state funding payments, said Caleb Buhs, spokesman for the state Treasury Department, which approved the loans.

“This was a good arrangement for both as DPS has a vested interest in the success of the EAA and DPS’ payments are protected by state aid from EAA,” Buhs said late Thursday.

DPS spokesman Steve Wasko could not be reached for comment.

The EAA opened its doors in September. It raised $15 million in private donations, money intended to finance start-up costs while the district waited to collect state aid for each student it educates.

“The EAA was simply faced with cash-flow timing challenges, and to cover the difference when donation commitment and pledges were made versus came in, as well as when their state aid payment would come in,” Snyder spokesman Sara Wurfel said late Thursday.

Snyder-backed legislation seeking to expand the reform district’s reach to 50 schools failing statewide is pending in the state Senate.

The EAA asked for and received a $2 million loan from the state in January to fund operations and technology improvements after philanthropic funds fell short.

“I’ve asked about the cash flow issues at every board meeting,” Duggan said.

One email Lipton obtained shows Snyder’s transformation manager, Richard Baird, was sent a copy of a Sept. 7 message about the EAA needing $3 million for payroll from DPS. Baird was involved in the transaction because he is secretary/treasurer of the Michigan Education Excellence Foundation, a group that helped finance the EAA’s start-up costs, Wurfel said.

The documents also show a $2 million loan by DPS to EAA to pay vendors and another $1.8 million for various payments. DPS chief financial officer Bill Aldridge signed off on all the requests.

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Lawmaker vows measure requiring more training for EAA school security [The Detroit News]

by Jennifer Chambers and Chad Livengood, April 27, 2013

State Sen. Coleman Young II, D-Detroit, said at a news conference held at Cadillac Place on Friday that he plans to introduce a measure to require increased training for contracted security workers in EAA schools. (David Coates / The Detroit News)

Detroit — As state lawmakers consider expanding the Education Achievement Authority, questions and controversy continue to dog the new system for failing schools.

Friday, state Sens. Coleman Young II, D-Detroit, and Bert Johnson, D-Highland Park, voiced concerns for the students at the 15 EAA schools, all in Detroit.

On Thursday, a $6 million loan to the EAA from Detroit Public Schools was made public, prompting other lawmakers to criticize Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration and call for further investigations.

“It’s appalling to see the governor’s office directly involved in taking $6 million out of the already cash-strapped Detroit Public School system in yet another shady back-room deal designed to keep the public from knowing it ever happened,” state Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer said.

EAA chancellor John Covington defended the loans, saying there was nothing secret or illegal about them, even though the EAA board never approved the transaction.

“We ran into a shortfall. The loans were taken out on behalf of the EAA. We are a client of DPS,” Covington said. “They already provide nutrition, law enforcement services.

“We don’t have a credit rating yet. It was thought it was best DPS partner for us,” he said.

Michelle Zdrodowski, DPS spokeswoman, said the district provided the funds at the request of the state.

“DPS agreed to the state’s request because the students in the systems are Detroit students and as former DPS students deserve a smooth educational transition during this time period,” Zdrodowski said.

“Under the agreement with Eastern Michigan University, which created the EAA, DPS can provide advances and services to the EAA.”

The transaction with the EAA was publicly reported through DPS’s deficit elimination plan, she said.

All costs associated with that borrowing, including staff time, is being paid by the EAA, she said. Repayments, including principal, interest and fees began on March 26, with a payment of $1.2 million.

Young said Friday he will introduce a measure that would mandate a higher level of training for contracted security workers in EAA schools.

At a news conference, Young said officers have told him they lack basic training in CPR, experience high turnover and get little support from Prudential Protective Service, the company hired to provide security officers at the 15 EAA schools.

“I’m not going to wait for a tragedy to happen. That’s why I’m introducing an amendment that will put our kids’ safety first,” Young said.

Robert Booker, an EAA security officer, said he was recently injured responding to a gang fight at Central High School. “We find knives, guns, drugs all the time,” Booker said. “Officers come and go all the time because we don’t have the training and support.”

This month, The News reported that in the first five months of the school year, authorities documented more than 5,000 discipline-related infractions in the EAA buildings, including fights, truancy, gambling and disorderly conduct.

The number of reported incidents soared from mid-November through the end of January, when 4,000 infractions piled up. The data represent the first assessment of behavioral problems among the 10,000 students at the EAA schools, which were under Detroit Public Schools management until last fall.

EAA chief of staff Tyrone Winfrey said the district contracts with the Detroit Public Schools Police Department and Prudential Security to provide security services.

“We take any allegation of unsafe conditions seriously and are ready to thoroughly investigate each allegation if we are provided with the details so that we can follow up. At the same time, to the extent this is an attempt by the SEIU to organize Prudential employees, that is an issue between Prudential and the SEIU,” Winfrey said.

A Prudential official said the claims are inaccurate and unfair and are rooted in an attempt to unionize the security guards rather than a sincere concern for students and staff at the schools. The guards make $9 an hour, the company said.

“This is politics at its worst. Rather than taking the proper steps to organize our employees, the union is exploiting children in an attempt to discredit Prudential and its employees,” said Gerald Collins, a company executive vice president.

An official with Service Employees International Union Local 1 in Detroit confirmed SEIU is trying to organize Prudential Security guards, including in the EAA. Chris Siller, the union’s Michigan coordinator, said the guards aren’t paid overtime and none are trained for CPR.

In Lansing, lawmakers are debating Snyder’s proposal to codify the EAA in law and allow it to take over another 35 schools across the state that have been in the bottom 5 percent of test scores for three years or longer. A bill passed the House and is pending in the Senate.

The House and Senate budget plans for the 2013-14 school year contain additional funds the EAA could request.

In February, Snyder proposed $8 million in grants for school districts that offer “student-centric” learning, which is defined in the budget bill as allowing students to “advance to the next level of learning based on their individual mastery of the each subject area.”

The House lowered the amount of grant money to $7 million, which the EAA and other schools using a different style of student learning would be eligible to apply for, said Bethany Wicksall, an education funding analyst with the nonpartisan House Fiscal Agency.

The Senate, in turn, capped the per-district grants at $1 million “so it couldn’t all go to the EAA,” said Eric Dean, chief of staff for Sen. Howard Walker, R-Traverse City, who is chairman of the Senate’s School Aid budget subcommittee.

 

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Protesters Call for Higher Wages in Columbus [ABC News]

by Dana Jay, April 29, 2013

COLUMBUS — In a city that recently made Forbes’ list of “America’s Biggest Brain Magnets” and was named Bloomberg Business Week’s #9 Best City for New College Grads, workers gathered Monday to draw attention to the fact that, while unemployment is going down, the poverty rate is going up.

“I was making $10.25 an hour, then I was reduced back to $9.70,” said Thurman Elliott, who works full-time for a security company.

A crowd of several dozen people — organized by the Service Employees International Union — gathered outside the headquarters of an auto insurance company where workers are currently at odds with contractors that employ janitors and security guards.

A recent report prepared by the state backs up their claim that fewer jobs are paying a living wage.

The Ohio Poverty Report, which was released in February based on numbers from the most recent U.S. Census, shows the percentage of poor Ohioans climbed from 10.6% in 1999 to 16.4% in 2011, which is above the national average.

In Columbus, the poverty rate went from 14.8 % in 1999 to 21.8% in 2011.

The protestors at Monday’s demonstration demanded the business pay more.

Among proposed solutions to Columbus’s poverty problem include making it easier for businesses to create jobs, increasing the minimum wage, and lowering healthcare costs.

Click here for full video coverage!

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