30-year military vet speaks up so no security officers go homeless
Ken Wood’s family has always been willing to sacrifice for their country. His older brother was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, and Ken signed up as quickly as he could after graduating from high school, spending more than 30 years in the military–with the Army and National Guard.
When Ken left the service and started work as a security officer, he had a wife and four daughters at home. He worked tirelessly, sometimes for two different security companies. “I barely had any time with my family,” he says, “I missed those early years with my kids… Girl Scouts, all of that. It was work, home, sleep, repeat.”
Ken is now heading into his 22nd year as a security officer protecting people and property in Silicon Valley, home to some of the world’s largest and most successful high-tech corporations.
“Living expenses are astronomical in Silicon Valley compared to what we make,” he says. To make ends meet, Ken has moved in with his youngest daughter and her husband. “It’s a struggle to get rent and food paid for without going to get payday loans. I’ve got no retirement and no savings, and raises are few and far between.”
Ken worries about his future all the time. He’s mostly concerned with the bills that haven’t been paid, and he can’t stand the thought of passing on debt to his children if something happens to him.
Even after all these years in the security industry and his extensive military career, Ken is paid just $14.25 an hour. With the knowledge, training, and skills he has developed and the wealth he contributes to creating in Silicon Valley, he thinks he should be paid more. When he heard security officers in Silicon Valley were forming a union, he knew he had to join them. He started speaking out and sharing his struggle with others in hopes of changing things for the better.
Ken remembers the first time he ever told his story: He spoke about what was happening to his fellow security officers, guys who were living in their cars because they couldn’t afford a place to live, some who would park as close as they could to their job so they could get to work earlier than everyone else and sneak in a shower. “It isn’t right,” he says.
For him, his union is a team, and this teamwork approach arises from a military ethos where you’re responsible for both yourself and for others.
As Ken says, “I realized that by forming a union, I would not only would be helping myself, but I would be laying the groundwork to help future security officers be successful in life.”