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Custodians, Security Officers Picket For Better Wages, Benefits

Despite the city’s unemployment rate being the lowest in the state, Columbus custodians and security officers say they remain at near poverty levels. WOSU attended a picket Monday afternoon where workers called for better benefits. About 75 janitors, security guards and their supporters marched in front of the Motorist Insurance building on East Broad Street. They carried signs that read “we deserve respect,â€? “secure Columbus’ future,â€? and “stand for security.â€? Thomas Simmons, who is a contracted security guard through Universal Protection Services at a downtown Columbus building, summed up what the workers want from some of the city’s largest businesses. “To get the company at the bargaining table where we can negotiate a fair and equitable contract that will be fair for everyone." Archie Sims is a security officer with Universal Protection Services at Rhodes Tower. Sims said he makes $10.25 an hour. He said that’s barely enough to support his family of four, much less have money left over for the company insurance plan. “You can’t afford it. Because of what we make an hour you have to make a decision. Should I pay this or should I pay rent?" Sims said. Nearly one in five Franklin County residents lives below the poverty level – a rate slightly higher than all of Ohio. The federal government says a family of four lives in poverty if their household income is $23,500 a year. Shawn Brentlinger holds a sign that says Aetna exploits janitors. That’s Aetna Building Maintenance. Brentlinger is a custodian at Nationwide Insurance, specifically a carpet tech. He says he makes 10 bucks an hour. He says he doesn’t want a different job, just better benefits. “The associates are great. They treat you with respect," Brentlinger said. "But it’s the employers who treat you like crap.â€? Brentlinger said he thinks the voices of many will get employers’ attention. “I don’t know if I’m heard, but I know all of us will be heard.â€? Officials with Motorists Insurance and Aetna building maintenance declined comment. The management group, Universal Services of America, says it values all its security and janitorial personnel. The group says it strives "to work with...clients to set the best pay and benefits packages..." while still remaining competititve.