South Beach's Security Guards Win Union Recognition After Nasty Tussle

Back in July, three-fourths of the security guards on South Beach signed cards asking to unionize -- a move that set off months of nasty fights with their employer, Security Alliance.

Company leaders bullied employees to find out who had signed up. At meetings, the bosses reminded the guards that hundreds of other applicants were ready to don the white and black uniforms and bike around Lincoln Road and Ocean Drive.

Then, after New Times wrote about the conflict, the only security guard who talked to us on the record got canned.

Last night, Security Alliance finally caved. The company has agreed to negotiate a union contract with SEIU for its 50 Miami Beach guards, says Eugenio Villasante, an SEIU spokesman.

SEIU will ask for higher pay, better training and health insurance for the guards, he says. The South Beach sentries currently make about 10 bucks an hour -- a rate below the pay mandated by Miami Beach's living wage ordinance.

"The private security industry is plagued by low wages and minimal training standards," says Mike Fishman, president of the SEIU chapter that will represent the guards. "We are looking forward to working with Security Alliance to raise standards across the entire industry and empowering officers to get ahead."

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink