Navy Pier security guards strike over new contractor

Navy Pier security officers, members of Teamsters Local 727, strike May 18, 2017, to protest a new contractor that they say plans to replace them with cheaper workers. (Phil Velasquez / Chicago Tribune)

Navy Pier’s security guards went on strike Thursday to protest a new security contractor the union says plans to replace them with workers making half their wage.

Allied Universal, which took over from previous contractor SMG on Wednesday, has refused to recognize the workers’ collective bargaining agreement and "made clear it plans to eliminate 90 percent of the union positions and replace experienced security professionals earning $24 an hour with outsourced workers making just $13," Teamsters Local 727, which represents the 43 security, fire and safety workers, said in a news release.

A spokesperson for Navy Pier, the city’s No. 1 tourist destination, said the strike will cause no interruption in security services and that Allied and Chicago police officers will have continued presence on the Pier.

Allied said it is working toward "a smooth transition and startup of services and will continue to do so over the days and weeks to come" but declined to comment on the union’s specific accusations.

Angela Burrell, public relations manager for Allied, said the company is still setting up its Navy Pier staffing. "Any statement regarding the representation of those employees would be premature," she said.

The union called the strike after filing unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board, alleging a Navy Pier executive intimidated a union employee by cutting down a union banner that hung at Illinois Street and Wabash Avenue, said union spokesman Will Petty.

The union wants Allied to retain Navy Pier’s current security workforce and recognize the five-year contract it negotiated in June with SMG, which had provided security at the pier since 2011. The workers will keep striking until the union hears from Allied or Navy Pier reaches out on its behalf, Petty said.

Navy Pier issued a request for proposals for a new security contractor early this year and picked Allied, which has 150,000 employees in 45 states.

"The change was a strategic decision that is more aligned with Navy Pier’s mission, needs and organizational priorities, and allows the pier to have better management of the on-site security team," the Navy Pier spokesperson said in an email. "Allied Universal Security has led the industry in security practices for nearly 60 years, serving many museums, cultural attractions and organizations similar to Navy Pier — including several in Chicago."

Teamsters Local 727 said Allied is seeking to bring in workers at $13 an hour through SEIU Local 1, part of the Service Employees International Union behind the nationwide campaign to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

"It’s ironic that SEIU drives the Fight for $15 campaign to raise the minimum wage, yet Local 1 is being used by this company to lower the long-established wages and benefits at the pier," said John Coli Jr., President of Teamsters Local 727.

SEIU Local 1 did respond to requests for comment.

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