I work two jobs, 16-hour days, and I still struggle. For Black History Month, I’m sharing my story so that we stay encouraged and hold security companies accountable
Marcus Laury loves his job. “My big brother is a security officer. My step-dad is a security officer. And I followed them in. I love helping people out,” he says.
For the last three years he has protected malls, markets and businesses across Southern California. “You can’t over-react when you are on patrol,” he says. “You deal with a lot of situations, some stressful. And when it’s over, ask yourself if you could have done better.”
Which is what he did when he found a person who suffered a fatal overdose on the 15th floor high-rise he was guarding. “It was a difficult day,” he says. “But I asked myself if there was anything more I could have done as a security officer.”
Marcus works hard at his job. And he wants security companies to work just as hard protecting the officers they employ.
“Our security companies can do better. They should do better. We need improved training, better pay and access to medical benefits,” he says.
When he first started out in the security industry, Marcus says he was put on post with only four (4) hours of training–which consisted of several short videos and worksheets. He says when officers switch to new locations, many companies don’t provide sufficient orientation. “Without this site-specific training, I think it could be dangerous for our clients, the public and for the guard themselves,” he says. “You need to know where the emergency exits are, the layout of the building and a ton of information like that. Someone should be there to train you.”
Marcus talks about the stress he is under trying to live on what security companies pay officers where he lives. “I work two jobs, 16-hour days, and I still struggle,” he says. “I live in community housing and practice tight money management just to pay the rent. I can’t afford anything extra or fun, like going to a movie now and then.”
For healthcare, Marcus visits the free clinic. He says his company offers medical benefits, but on what they pay, he has no way to afford them. “I’ve been blessed not to be sick or injured. I’m cautious every day with my health and take care of myself,” he says.
This month is Black History Month and that means something to Marcus. “I have experienced racism while working as a security officer. As an African-American male, I’ve watched people pre-judge me based on the color of my skin,” he says. “I think all security companies and the clients that hire them should treat officers equally. And companies should follow up to make sure guards have a way to solve issues like racism when they happen on the job.”
As fellow security officers, his brother and step-dad struggle with these very same issues. “My step-dad has been an officer for over 25 years. I’ve watched him work as much over-time as he possibly can to try to make ends meet. This isn’t right,” he says.
This is all part of the reason Marcus is working to form a strong security officer union.
“When we form our union, we can hold security companies, and the people who run them, accountable. We can fight for equality, better pay, affordable medical benefits and making sure officers get their legally-mandated breaks,” he says. “This is a tough job. I want to make sure we security officers stay encouraged. We can accomplish anything we set our minds to, including building a strong union and getting the respect we deserve.”