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Downtown Detroit security officers vote to go on strike

Downtown Detroit Partnership
Campus Martius park in downtown Detroit. Security officers for One Campus Martius and several other prominent buildings voted this week to go on strike.

Update, Tuesday June 11: A spokeswoman for the SEIU Local 1 chapter says they've still not received a response to the strike vote from SecurAmercia. Still no firm date yet for when the strike might start.

Original post June 10: Last night, security officer Darian Stevens says he had to bike two hours home from work. That’s because he can’t afford a car or an apartment near his job in downtown Detroit.

“We secure billion dollar buildings, and as I’ve found lately, I don’t even make enough to have a home down here,” Stevens says. “Whereas if I did have $15 [an hour] at least and union rights, then I’d be able to pick my own housing freely.”

That’s what Stevens and some 200 fellow security officers hope to gain by voting to go on strike “in the coming days,” according to a Thursday press release from Service Employees International Union’s local chapter.

“A possible strike could leave some of downtown’s flagship buildings, including One Campus Martius, Chrysler House, First National Building, Chase Tower and Federal Reserve, unprotected,” SEIU warns in the release.

Officers say they’re specifically protesting retaliation threats they’ve received for trying to organize. They’re employed through a private contractor, SecurAmerica, which didn’t respond to our request for comment.

According to the SEIU, nearly a quarter of the downtown security officers have to work a second job, and some have had to go on public assistance. Stevens says he’s going to “great lengths” to avoid doing that, like living without a car to avoid the payments and insurance costs, and crashing with friends in Warren while he keeps trying to find a place of his own.

“I’ve looked all over downtown, midtown, around Jefferson, and there are a few options but they’re very few and far between, because as it stands, I make $1600 a month," he said. "And most of the apartments, the studios, start at $900 to $1000 a month. And they won’t even look at me.”

Meanwhile, he spends his days working security in a resurgent downtown, feeling like he’s been left behind.

“Without security on every corner, we wouldn't have tourists down here. We would not have people that want to come down here to eat, or to hang out, or to work," Stevens said. "We would still be where we were ten years ago… and if Detroit’s going to come back, we need all of Detroit to come back.”

Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.
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