Kurt Westby, district supervisor for the union 32 BJ, which represents the workers, told The Associated Press on Thursday that about 40 guards plan to hold a one-day strike on May 10.
The guards work for SOS Security Inc. at buildings housing state agencies including the Departments of Public Works and the Office of Policy and Management.
"It's unfortunate the workers are so upset with their working conditions that they have to do this," said Westby, adding that the guards hope the action will improve their working conditions. "They feel this is their last resort."
The guards have accused SOS of failing to make pension contributions required by a state contract with the East Parsippany, N.J.-based company. They also said the company has used intimidation tactics against them as they've tried to unionize with 32BJ, which is part of the Service Employees International Union.
The workers earn $9.56 to $12 an hour and say they can't afford the health insurance offered to them and often rely on state taxpayer-funded health insurance and other public assistance.
A man who answered the phone at SOS's headquarters said the company had no comment.
Last month, the guards voted to authorize a possible strike. Since that time, Westby said SOS hasn't met with the workers to listen to their concerns.
"There have been no constructive discussions whatsoever," he said.
The guards don't yet have a contract — Westby said SOS hasn't recognized 32BJ as the workers' union — but Wesby said some job protections are available to them under federal law if they do strike.
Several hundred guards are employed by at least five private firms contracted to provide security services at state buildings. Westby said the union is preparing for the possibility that those other guards will authorize strikes.
The union has requested the Department of Administrative Services to conduct an audit of SOS Services and review whether they've made proper pension payments, paid correct holiday rates and wages, and provided working safety equipment such as radios. The union also requested that the agency review the cost of the health insurance that SOS offers employees. Employees said it can cost as much as $585 in co-pays every two weeks for a family plan.
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