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Security Officers Who Protect Kaiser Hospitals Rally With Community Supporters for Access to Affordable Healthcare

"I guard this hospital, but I can't afford to see a doctor here" -- William Bailey, Securitas Security Officer at Kaiser Sunset Medical Center in Los Angeles

OAKLAND, Calif., May 21 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Security officers and supporters rallied against unfair labor practices and slashed health benefits by Kaiser's contractor Securitas outside of Kaiser hospitals in both Oakland and Los Angeles today. Workers chanted, marched, and highlighted the irony of their situation carrying signs that said, "I guard this hospital, but I can't see a doctor here," and, "It's hard to thrive when you can't afford your healthcare."

As first responders, security officers at Kaiser protect hospitals, medical staff, and patients while also putting their health at risk by potential exposure to illness and disease. In the wake of Kaiser's security contractor, Securitas, slashing officer's health plans three months ago, many officers cannot afford doctors visits, prescription drugs, preventative care, and lifesaving treatment at the very hospitals they protect.

"Now that my prescription drug costs have tripled, I take my daily medication every other day so they last longer," confesses Julia Benavente, a security officer at the Kaiser Permanente Manteca Medical Center. "I work hard everyday. I shouldn't have to live like this."

Kaiser recently brought in Securitas, a Sweden-based security contractor who immediately cut the health coverage offered to security officers who work at Kaiser facilities. Securitas recently boasted a 3 percent increase in first quarter earnings of 2009, showing profitability at a time of economic strain in the United States. The security officers have numerous complaints against Securitas, including that the company has intimidated, harassed, and restrained the workers from working with their union to improve working conditions.

The 1,500 security officers across California that protect Kaiser hospitals have been in negotiations with Securitas for their first contract since March. Despite protecting medical staff, and patients in hospitals run by the largest nonprofit healthcare organization in the country, officers earn as little as $10.40 an hour and many cannot afford routine medical treatment and care at the very medical centers they protect.

Although private security officers are typically first responders to emergency situations, low wages and lack of access to quality, affordable healthcare are contributing to a turnover rate estimated by industry experts to be as high as 300%. Coupled with inadequate training standards cited by security officers, poor conditions in the private security industry mean a greater threat to public safety and building security.

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Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Locals 24/7 and SOULA 2006 are part of SEIU United Service Workers West, representing more than 40,000 janitors, security officers, airport service workers, and other property service workers across California. SEIU is the fastest growing labor union in the Americas with more than 2 million members.

    Contact: Mike Chavez (562) 644-0798
             Rachele Huennekens (510) 825-3546

SOURCE SEIU United Service Workers West
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