ELCA bishop endorses living wages for security officers
Twin Cities security guards testified before a panel of religious leaders in mid-December to address issues they face related to discriminatory hiring and supervision, indignities in the workplace, and insufficient salaries. The hearing panel included Pastor Bruce Arnevik, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, Somali Action Alliance organizer Fowzia Abdullahi, and Father John Estrem, CEO of Catholic Charities. The hearing was sponsored by the Workers Interfaith Network (WIN).
Security officers in the Twin Cities have been working with Service Employees International Union Local 26 to address workers’ concerns about access to affordable health care, earning a living wage, and raising training standards in the security industry to make security jobs good jobs for everyone. “This hearing is an opportunity for individual workers to share their experiences and for religious leaders to listen and respond,” explained Matt Gladue, WIN director.
One security company, Hannon Security, is currently under investigation for discriminatory hiring practices. White and African-American testers were sent in for jobs at Hannon, and white individuals with no experience in security were allegedly hired on to supervise African-American officers with security experience. EEOC charges were filed in October in this matter.
Arnevik read aloud a letter from Craig Johnson, Minneapolis Area Synod Bishop of the ELCA, to the hundreds of security guards present at the hearing. “Both as a religious leader and as an employer, I see racial discrimination in hiring as counter to Minnesota values and laws,” wrote Johnson. “Prejudice runs counter to the mission of the Gospel. And it runs counter to who we are as Minnesotans.”
Johnson conveyed his commitment to work with security guards to rectify the challenges they now face. He thanked all those present for “standing up for justice in your workplace and community.”
“My concern does not end with discrimination at Hannon,” Johnson explained. “It is crucial that we work with large employers to ensure that they pay a living wage and provide decent, affordable health care coverage.”
Various attempts over several months have been made to contact Julie Hughes, a senior vice president of United Properties, the Twin Cities largest property management firm, according to Arnevik. At press time, there still had been no response.