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Union, BOMA Spar Over Security

A MOVE TO UNIONIZE security guards is underway nationwide. One major battle on that front is Los Angeles. When the mayor there raised concerns last year that high-rise security was not adequate, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) worked with members of the city council to shape an ordinance that it said would help to address the inadequacies.

They succeeded in advancing their position. Not only does the ordinance call for SEIU to help craft 40 hours of emergency-response training for the 10,000 security guards who work at L.A. office buildings, but it also says that security officers would be able to join the SEIU to bargain for better pay and benefits. The training program is to be modeled after a similar one in New York that was designed and developed by the local union in collaboration with the real estate industry and law enforcement.

Security providers oppose the ordinance, which is now being reviewed by the city attorney’s office.

The ordinance is essentially a ploy for the union to play a role in setting a security agenda and ultimately get a foothold in the Los Angeles market, says Martha Cox-Nitikman, senior director of government and public affairs for the Building Owners and Managers Association of Greater Los Angeles (BOMA/GLA).

If the real concern is training guards for high-rise situations, the industry is already stepping up efforts, she says. For example, BOMA/GLA has established an Accredited Security Organization Program (ASOP) in which guard-service companies can achieve accreditation by having their high-rise personnel undergo at least 8 to 24 hours of voluntary training in such areas as threat recognition and cooperation with first responders.

The BOMA training, like that called for in the ordinance, would add to the 40 hours of state-mandated training. The state law requires specific areas of training—such as observation and documentation, legal liability, and arrest powers—but does not include high-rise protection.

About 80 to 90 percent of the high-rise security officers who service the largest high rises in the city—most of which are downtown and in Century City—have now gone through the BOMA training, estimates Cox-Nitikman.

As part of ASOP, in the winter of 2005 Securitas conducted an eight-hour training class for about 45 officers who work in Los Angeles high rise buildings, says Geoff Craighead, CPP, the company’s vice president of high-rise and real estate services.

Early results of BOMA’s ASOP are encouraging enough for the National Association of Security Companies (NASCO) to approach BOMA about introducing the program to other cities, says NASCO executive director Joe Ricci.

SEIU says that companies should want to work with them to improve training, pay, and benefits for officers in order to reduce turnover and build a better work force. “If not,” says SEIU director of security organizing Jono Schaffer, “we’ll work through the regulatory process and every other avenue that we have at our disposal.”