KONA, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - The security guards who patrol Kona Airport voted overwhelmingly Friday to join a new local union whose leader said they need basic benefits and protection from unfair treatment at airports statewide.
The guards work for the private company Securitas. They voted 67 to 6 to join the International Union of Security and Protective Officers which was formed in Hawaii about five months ago.
"Paramount is that these guards don't have any rights. And that, primarily, is why we're here," said Richard Dods, executive director for the union.
Dods said security guards at airports across Hawaii have been unfairly fired, suspended and disciplined, because they are at-will employees of Securitas now.
He said the company offers almost no benefits.
"There's no sick leave, there's no vacation, there's no holidays and they have a very meager medical plan," Dods added.
Dods said guards lack prescription drug coverage, have Kaiser medical insurance only for themselves and are not eligible to get medical coverage for their spouses and children.
The guards are paid anywhere from $12 to $19 an hour, Dods said.
Securitas had a three-year contract with the state to provide security at airports statewide for $99 million, a state Department of Transportation spokesman said.
More than a year ago, local organizers got guards at Kahului, Kona and Hilo to vote to join a mainland union.
But Dods said they broke off their affiliation with the National Union of Protective Services Associations in Washington, D.C. after its founder and executive director pleaded guilty to stealing nearly $200,000 from that union last year.
"And we were never told about it," Dods said. "So we just felt that it was improper to continue a relationship with them as long as that gentleman was part of their organization."
JC Stamps, the National Union of Protective Services Associations executive director, was sentenced to nine months in prison and had to pay $194,000 in restitution, The Washington Post reported.
The local group had to wait one year for their certifications to expire with the mainland union before it could start up its own union from scratch and begin the voting process again, said Dods, a former police officer on the Big Island and Oahu who was involved in starting SHOPO, the statewide police union, in the 1970's.
"This union is a grass-roots union," Dods added.
On Tuesday, security guards at Lihue Airport on Kauai barely approved joining the new local union by a vote of 22 to 18.
Since the company only provides a Kaiser medical plan and there is no Kaiser clinic or medical services on Kauai, the close vote might seem surprising.
But Dods claimed a lot of the Kauai guards were "intimidated" by Securitas managers not to vote or to vote "no," so the union won by just four votes.
Union votes for 600 eligible security guards at Honolulu International Airport as well as about 60 guards in Hilo and nearly 100 guards in Kahului will be scheduled in the weeks and months ahead, Dods said.
A phone message left with the Honolulu office of Securitas was not returned Friday afternoon.
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