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Security Officers Seek Unionization

When an emergency strikes a skyscraper the pressure is on for the in-house safety workers to act quickly, but if the building’s security officers don’t even know where the elevator keys are, first responders could remain stuck on the first floor looking for keys.

On Wednesday, security officers from several downtown Pittsburgh buildings rallied outside of the PPG building with paramedics, elected officials, clergy, and firefighters to encourage unionization.

“[There are] hundreds of buildings in the city of Pittsburgh and we try our hardest to learn about them, but someone who knows their building, just like you would know your own home, it helps us handle the situation,” said Pittsburgh Firefighters Union board member Darrin Kelley.

Kelley has been working as a firefighter in downtown Pittsburgh for 11 years and he says he has been in almost every building twice, and it makes a big difference if the security officer on duty is well trained.

Supporters of the security officers unionization effort say that with a standardized format for training that could come through a union contract, all security officers would know where the exits are, how to lock down the building, what to do in case of a fire and much more that is not always covered during new employee orientation sessions.

"Some one has to be able to sit with these [security] companies and say, 'This is a standard form of education, let us help you roll it out,'" said Kelley who notes other cities have such requirements.

The security officers are also looking for better wages.  Guards make an average of $8.50 an hour and argue that with low pay, and poor training, turnover rates can be high.  They say that turn over results in workers who have dangerously low levels of knowledge about the building. 

Kelley said ultimately standardizing training for security officers would make doing his job a lot easier, and help to keep the community more safe, “when you have people who are trained to properly do these things, it makes it run smoothly. When you don’t, it’s a recipe for things to go wrong, and when things go wrong in a 50-60 story building, you have issues and it can be tragic.”

Jess was accepted as a WESA fellow in the news department in January 2014. The Erie, PA native attends Duquesne University where she has a double major--broadcast journalism and political science. Following her anticipated graduation in May 2015, she plans to enter law school or begin a career in broadcast journalism.