June 01, 2007 13:40 ET

SEIU: Wackenhut Security Services Slammed for Shorting Workers

Army Ammunition Plants' Employees Seek Millions in Back Pay

WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwire - June 1, 2007) - According to SEIU, employees at an explosive manufacturing plant in Kingsport, Tennessee, operated by Wackenhut Security Services, are reportedly owed more than $3 million in back pay according to a news story published on May 31 in the Tri-City Times/News. The story, reported by Jeff Bobo, states that employees at the Holston Army Ammunitions Plant filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor in 2005 claiming that their benefits and pay were in violation of the federal McNamara-O'Hara Service Contract Act of 1965. BAE Systems, which operates the facility as a contractor for the US Army, subcontracted with Wackenhut Security Services to provide the plant security in 1999 and workers claim that they haven't been properly reimbursed since then.

Now, according to the news story, U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-CA) and Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) have called on U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao to take action on this filed complaint.

As reported in the news story, Senator Kennedy is quoted as writing to Chao: "Vigilant enforcement of these laws is essential for families struggling to make ends meet. In this case, vindication of the workers' rights is also important for our national security. Wackenhut's treatment of its employees could have a debilitating effect on morale and on the quality of security at the Holston Army Ammunition Plant, an essential facility that produces explosives vital to the war effort."

A Wackenhut employee, who spoke to reporter Bobo on condition of anonymity, told the reporter: "It's a shame that we've had to go through this process... All the other contractors who have come and gone within the plant receive the pay scale from the Service Contract Act, and we're the only one that haven't. We're still battling over the health insurance too. Right now we're paying 100 percent of our health insurance. That's about $120 per week, which works out to roughly $6,200 per year."

Holston AAP is a massive installation, including 465 buildings spread across two sites. The plant produces explosives and propellants for the Army, including for the Navy's Trident Program. It also manages and stores material for the national defense stockpile.

A report by AP reporter Larry Margasak, which ran over Memorial Day weekend, also chronicled low pay and under-trained security forces, including security lapses at government facilities holding contracts with Wackenhut.

"The federal government must hold companies like Wackenhut accountable and insist that these private security firms also ensure the security and well-being of their workforce. In these perilous times, taxpayers deserve the highest quality security at government facilities and should not have to sacrifice proper guard training, hiring, and working conditions for that safety," said Valarie Long, property services division director of SEIU.

SEIU, the fastest-growing union in North America, with 1.8 million members in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico, is also the largest union of security officers in the nation. The union represents over 25,000 officers who work for private security companies and 30,000 officers who work in the public sector. SEIU members provide the highest quality professional security services for high-rise commercial buildings, banks, nuclear power facilities, airports, warehouses, and the high-tech industry all across America.

More about Wackenhut and the campaign to improve conditions for security workers can be found on the website

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