Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop and Hudson County Commissioner Bill O’Dea joined 32BJ SEIU security officers’ call for open bargaining on a new contract yesterday, as they seek higher wages, essential pay for working through the pandemic, and more.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
A bargaining committee of 12 members representing over 2,700 security officers in the state came together at 32BJ offices in Newark for the start of bargaining for their third master four-year agreement and employers joined by teleconference.
“Our security officers have weathered this pandemic in the front lines. They have taken the brunt of the risks as they have taken on new duties, such as being in charge of temperature checking stations, or enforcing mask mandates and other policies,” 32BJ’s Vice President and NJ State Director Kevin Brown said in a statement.
“As our state moves into a recovery phase, raising their wages, improving on the protections and maintain their healthcare are the pillars of the 2021-2025 Master Agreement.”
The contract covers 1,800 security officers from Hudson, Essex, and Union Counties, more than 400 officers from Bergen, Passaic, Middlessex, and Mercer Counties, and more than 500 new members from Morris, Monmouth and Somerset Counties.
“This past year has been extremely difficult to serve as a security officer and as an essential worker. We put our lives at risk and our families’ health on the line when we showed up to work, while everyone stay home,” explained Tyshawn Barnes, an Allied Universal Security officer at Hudson County Community College and a member of the bargaining committee.
“This contract negotiation is about showing us the respect we deserve for the sacrifices that we have made. I am proud to represent my fellow officers who have sacrificed so much.”
The officers are asking for wage increases, essential pay for officers who have worked throughout the pandemic, enhanced paid time off, to maintain their employer-paid health benefits, to strengthen provisions against discrimination for attributes historically associated with non-white racial groups, such as hairstyles, among other things.
“I am here today because 32BJ represents the working backbone of Jersey City, the Hudson County and New Jersey. For years, 32BJ has advocated for workers that are in the frontline doing work that is often underappreciated but vital to the economy,” noted Fulop.
“I am here to support the union and workers in these negotiations. During the pandemic, security officers were – and continue to be – front line. They proudly took on additional responsibilities and risks at no additional pay. I am proud to support 32BJ on this bargaining session,” added O’Dea.
Other elected officials who voiced their support for the cause included Hillside Mayor Dahlia Vertreese, a former union member, and Essex County Commissioner Brendan Gill.