Houston security officer Lois Lockett lost nearly everything in Hurricane Harvey—except her desire to fight for a union
Even before Hurricane Harvey battered Houston, security officer Lois Lockett didn’t have a lot to lose.
Lois works for MED Security protecting the City of Houston’s Southwest Multi-Service Center. The center offers various services to the community, including a child nutrition program, the Healthy Families Healthy Futures program, a community garden, and rental space for public meetings such as workshops and seminars.
But Lois is paid just $11.50 per hour for her work. A security officer for seven years, she has only rarely got a raise. Her employer “offers” healthcare, at a cost of almost $300 per month, far too expensive for someone paid so little. “I had a car but it was repossessed,” she says. “Now I take the bus.”
When asked what it is like to live on that wage, she replied, “It’s hard to live in this city on $11.50. I work hard every shift to make sure the people I protect are safe. And the job can be risky. We deserve to be paid better,” she says.
Harvey brought the most rain ever recorded for a single storm in the continental United States. The water rose quickly to Lois’ apartment. “When I walked outside, it was chest deep already,” she says. “I knew I had to leave.”
Grabbing only her phone and some medicine, Lois began to wade through the rising waters in the direction of her sister’s house. “The water came up to my chest and it was really dirty,” she says. “It took a long time to walk through that while holding my belongings over my head so they wouldn’t get soaked.”
Eventually she made it to her sister’s. Left behind—and destroyed—were her clothes, furniture, and everything else. “Luckily, I kept my family photos in another place,” she says.
With nearly everything gone, Lois got a tetanus shot to protect herself from illness. Then she got to work, helping others. Joining together with neighbors, she made sure people had supplies.
The work reminded Lois of when she worked in a shipyard and was a member of a union. “When you are union, you work together and help each other,” she says. That’s why—even before the storm—Lois had been standing with coworkers to form a union.
How did Lois’ employer—MED Security—respond to the Hurricane? “They didn’t do anything,” she says. “The center was closed so I couldn’t go to work. No one called to see if I was ok, nothing. I won’t be paid for the time my site was closed. I think the company should have at least asked how its officers were doing. Maybe helped coordinate how we could support each other. Anything like that.”
Lois lost nearly everything—except for her desire to fight for a union in her workplace.
TO DONATE: Our SEIU sisters and brothers in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico are among the millions of people impacted by the devastating effects of these powerful storms. It’s times like this when being united with two million members in a strong union matters.
We are joining together to use our strength in numbers and provide support and relief as these communities begin to recover and rebuild.
To donate, visit: https://action.seiu.org/page/contribute/disaster