Los Angeles Business Journal

Property Service Workers Deserve Job Security

OPED: Lawmakers can promote the economy by passing AB 350. By MIKE GARCIA Monday, September 12, 2011

I take issue with Michele Dennis’ op-ed in Aug. 15 issue of the Business Journal (“Bad Performance Review”) in which she attacks AB 350, a proposal that would help protect property service workers.

With California’s unemployment near 12 percent, stabilizing employment is a basic step toward economic recovery. Contracted property service workers face even more job insecurity than most because of low-bid competition. The faces of security officers, food service workers, janitors and window washers are the faces of the working poor in California. Low-bid contracting in the state’s property services industry perpetuates instability and poverty in these workers’ communities.

Everyone who works hard should be able to live in dignity. Cut-throat property service contractors imagine the only way to grow is to create poverty-level jobs. Racing to undercut competitors means property service contracts change hands almost overnight, often over just a few dollars. Contractors who don’t want a reputation for ditching customers make sure their workers don’t know until the last minute they’ve lost their jobs because their boss was underbid. That’s not right.

California’s property owners would like to blame workers for contract turnover. The truth is the low-bid system ensures turnover that has a lot more to do with cost control than with worker job performance. This low-bid system creates a new model of temporary work that balances working families on the knife’s edge of imminent catastrophe. Facing unemployment in California today is facing catastrophe.

If our leaders don’t take steps to reverse these trends and protect working and middle-class families in this recession, recovery and growth will remain elusive. Economic security is the first step toward economic recovery.

By passing AB 350, California’s lawmakers can bring a modicum of economic security to property service workers such as Keven Adams. Like most Americans, Adams, a licensed security officer, lives paycheck to paycheck. Despite years of hard work, he came to work one day to find someone else at his post. The building changed security contractors, but Adams only found out that he lost his job from the officer who replaced him. Overnight, he was left to rely on unemployment, scrambling to pay for rent, utilities and groceries.

Real protections

Tens of thousands of California janitors can point to very real protections against arbitrary unemployment that the Displaced Janitor Opportunity Act has provided them and their families over 10 years. For thousands upon thousands of security officers, food service workers and window washers, AB 350 holds the promise of similar protection at a time when California is one of the hardest places in the nation to find work. Economic recovery starts with stable jobs.

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