A 13-year veteran in the security industry, Gene works at a building containing some very high-profile facilities. “There’s the Department of Motor Vehicles, Homeland Security, State Patrol, and the Attorney General’s office,” Gene says. “It’s a heavy-duty site.”
The 50-year old remembers a time in America when if you worked hard for a living, you made a living.
But today Gene doesn’t even have family healthcare. “My daughter’s in the Navy in Virginia,” he says. “So she has it. And my two sons are on the state healthcare plan—our only saving grace. And my older son works at a pizza chain.”
That leaves Gene and his wife—who, like millions of other Americans, has lost her job.
“We were about to get on top of that glass mountain,” Gene says. “But she lost her job and it knocked us down to the bottom.”
Not having money means no family vacations. “We’ve never had a family vacation the whole 19 years I’ve been married,” Gene says.
It often means having no healthcare.
“We don’t see a doctor unless we absolutely have to,” says Gene. “The last time I saw one I was in the emergency room. Had to pay out of pocket. It took five years to pay off.”
And not seeing a doctor means poor health. Gene developed gallstones.
“My gallstones got real bad because I hadn’t seen a doctor,” Gene says. “My wife asked the doctor what would have happened if I didn’t come in. He told her ‘your husband would have continued to turn yellow and dropped dead.’ At that point I was 72 hours away from being in the dirt.”
And the problems aren’t over. “Right now I have a big lump on my head,” Gene says. “I don’t know what it is. It could be a calcium deposit. It could be a tumor. Who knows? I can’t see a doctor because I can’t afford it.”
And here’s something surprising. Gene could actually get health coverage for himself—if he chose to. Why doesn’t he?
“It’s a sense of responsibility that I grew up with,” says Gene. “Because I don’t want to have something that my wife doesn’t have. I can’t just leave my wife out in the cold for healthcare, she gave birth to my sons.”
How about getting a family plan? “It’s too damn expensive,” Gene says. “A family plan would be $500 a month.”
So Gene is hoping to win full family healthcare as 2,000 Twin Cities security officers negotiate a new contract with their employers, security contractors hired to protect people and property at some of Minnesota’s wealthiest corporations—including USBank, Target, and Wells Fargo.
Can standards be improved for security officers? Yes. Twins Cities security officers are among the workers who have provided millions and millions in profits over the years. The CEO of USBank is paid $13.6 million a year ($6500 per hour). The CEO of Target, $20 million ($9600 per hour). The CEO of Wells Fargo, again $20 million ($9600 per hour).
“I would like for one of these guys to take a day, go in, and get spit on, sworn at, disrespected. Then go home and have to say no to your kids for the simplest little thing. It’s tough. I’d like them to see what it’s like to decide whether you want to keep your lights on or eat ramen noodles for dinner or have to walk to work for a week because you need to buy shoes for your son,” Gene says.
Fueled by a sense of what is right, Gene is confident that security officers will be able to win good jobs for their communities—even if it means having to strike over unfair labor practices.
But Gene realizes that the problems afflicting security officers are afflicting the rest of us too.
“Everybody in our building supports the security officers,” Gene says. “That’s because times are tough for just about everybody.”
As a security officer, Gene is ready to protect his community. He’s ready to win good jobs for the community and to take a stand for the middle class, urging USBank, Target, and Wells Fargo to do everything in their power—and they have a lot of power—to stop unfair banking practices, reverse decay in our neighborhoods, and tackle unemployment.