A lifetime of progress

Idris Aziz has seen—and created—plenty of changes in his 22 years as a security officer in Los Angeles.

He’s also gained a wealth of experience, which he uses to keep people safe on his hospital’s graveyard shift.

“In the hospital, especially the E.R., emergencies are the nature of the work,” he says. “Our role is assisting and protecting. We really contribute to a safe environment.”

“Usually we’re dealing with psych patients, and we’re trying to keep some poor nurse from getting their head knocked off, or a doctor from getting kicked.”

His experience also includes working to make things better for everyone.

“I’ve been active in the labor movement since I was 15,” he says. “I came of age during the Vietnam Era, and had to choose which side I would stand on. I started working for racial equality.”

His union activism paid off when he and his fellow security officers decided to organize their own union in Los Angeles. Working as a union member is very different from the way he and his family used to get by.

In the early days, “You could get all the overtime you wanted,” he says. “That’s how you made up the difference.”

“I raised five kids that way, by working a lot of overtime. ‘Live within your means,’ that’s my philosophy,” he says. “They went to school on scholarships.”

“Most security contractors didn’t pay for healthcare before,” he says, pointing out the difference it makes to have formed a union with other security officers in L.A.

“Now I have medical, dental and vision.”

“Nothing really happened until we won our first union contract,” he says. “If you didn’t work a holiday, you didn’t get paid for it. Now we have paid sick days. We even have bereavement pay.”

What’s the biggest difference?

Having a fair process to resolve problems on the job.

“You’d have a model employee,” he says, “who went through a breakup or a death in the family. They wouldn’t be themselves for a day or two, and would be dismissed.”

“Now, we can talk it out. Before, you were on your own, completely on your own.”

What kind of changes does Idris see on the horizon?

“The big picture is more diversity and gender equality,” he says. “It’s embarrassing to have a woman doing the same job as a man, and being paid less. There’s just no rationale for it in 2016.”

He believes in the power of his union to help make it happen.

“There are a million officers out there nationwide,” he says. “We can make a real impact if we band together.”

Cross post from SEIU-USWW