How to Scrape by as a Security Officer in Silicon Valley



Daniel Santos has been a security officer for more than 10 years, and loves working at Almaden Plaza in downtown San Jose. Daniel has been protecting the office complex for five and half years. “We have a family atmosphere, and even celebrate the clients’ birthdays with them. Knowing the clients motivates us to provide the best service we can. Expectations are high.”

Yet Daniel doesn’t see the same level of reciprocity between the security officers and their direct employer, Universal Protection Service (UPS). UPS still pays Daniel $12 an hour—the same wage they offered him when he started in 2009.

“I’ve worked for Universal Protection Service for five and a half years, and still haven’t gotten a raise. I can’t afford to shop at Safeway or Lucky’s, even with a savings card. I only shop at discount grocery stores like FoodMaxx, Pak N Save, or the Grocery Outlet, which is really cheap and always packed. It doesn’t matter which day of the week it is, there are always long lines. I look for the cheapest products, and plan our meals so that we don’t spend as much. Meat and milk really run the bill up, so I don’t buy them much.”

Daniel dreams of taking a two-week vacation, and traveling to Los Angeles or Puerto Vallarta. But he can’t afford the travel costs, or to lose two weeks’ pay. Daniel says that UPS doesn’t give him paid vacation, and discourages him from taking more than a week of unpaid time off.

“I live in Hayward, and I take my vacations in Hayward,” he says. “Some people travel to a tropical beach for vacation. I sit next to a duck pond.”

Daniel continues to employ money-saving strategies. “I never go to a movie when it’s full price. Forget about visiting the concessions stand.”

But he’s also moving forward with a much bigger strategy: joining with his co-workers to build power and improve their jobs. Daniel and his co-workers are forming a union of security officers in Silicon Valley. “It boosts morale if security officers have a union and are getting paid enough. It makes the company stronger, and stronger companies make a stronger community, too.”

Watch real estate decision-makers at CalPERS react to testimony by another UPS officer here. CalPERS is looking into concerns raised by security officers that UPS may not be in compliance with the pension fund’s responsible contracting policy.

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