Security guards for decades have been complaining that they are under paid and over worked and they had a chance to air their concerns Wednesday afternoon. Pittsburgh City Council carved a few minutes out of its afternoon to hold a public hearing on improving wages and training standards for security guards in the city. The hearing was scheduled after a petition was circulated requesting the time before council. The Service Employees International Union local 32 BJ organized the effort. Local 32 BJ Organizer Sam Williamson says it is a growing safety concern. “Privatized security companies pay people so little that turnover really rivals what it is in the fast food industry,” says Williamson, “the workers expected to be the first line of defense in case of an emergency don’t have the training necessary to be able to protect the public.”
Sam Williamson is a guard at a downtown building. He says there needs to be standardized training for security guards. “On the job training is not enough to really allow us to be the most effective first responders, if we had standardized training we could do more to make the right calls,” says Kelly. Pittsburgh Fire fighter Darrin Kelly agrees, he says the best asset a fire fighter responding to a call in a high-rise building can have is a well-trained security guard that meets them at the door. “It allows us to prepare for the situation at hand,” says Kelly, “a building that does not have well trained security personnel allows us to walk into a hornets nest.”
No legislation has been introduced in council to deal with training or wages of security guards. Williams says he hopes the hearing will “make the public take note of the situation and bring it out of the shadows.” Council President Darlene Harris says she plans to form a special commission to look into the issue. County Council President Rich Fitzgerald says he will work on legislation at the county level and hopes to work closely with the city council. In the Meantime, Williams says he will work to unionize more security guards in the hopes that it will increase pay, benefits and training for all guards.