Unionized security guards better able to tackle terror threats


A local union branch, trying to place many of the area’s private security guards in its fold, released a study Thursday that it said showed a unionized work force would make the guards better able to respond to crimes, natural disasters or the threat of terror attacks.

Officials with the Service Employees International Union Local 6, which represents about 2,400 office building janitors in Seattle and Bellevue, held a news conference yesterday flanked by several local Democratic politicians and other supporters.

They said a majority of security guards, undertrained and underpaid, were eager to be unionized so they could improve and standardize training procedures, better their working conditions and slow high turnover rates.

Office building and public transit security in Seattle is only as strong as its weakest link, City Councilman Nick Licata said.

“Right now, the private security force is the weakest link,” he said.

Licata, union officials and others stressed that security guards receive no FBI fingerprint checks when hired and no “site-specific” training to make sure they know in detail the structure they are paid to protect.

“Seattle’s commercial building owners, the Sound Transit system and other sensitive public sites use personnel from private security firms to detect, deter and report threats,” wrote the SEIU in its 18-page report. “However, these building owners may be creating a false sense of security, since Seattle security officers often get minimal training.”

The SEIU hopes to represent about 1,500 private security guards regionally.

Homeless Americans Elect to Join the Political System

By Elizabeth Mehren, LA Times Staff Writer

BOSTON — For “years and years,” when people told him to vote, Anthony Addison retorted that he had no faith in the political system. After all, what had it done for him, a homeless Vietnam veteran who said he was too disabled to work?

But on Thursday, as Addison, 59, joined nearly 200 other homeless people here to register as first-time voters, he declared: “This is the first step to becoming part of the system. I can stay in my shell, or I can come out and take part in the process.”

That was exactly what four residents of New England’s largest homeless shelter, the Pine Street Inn, had in mind last winter when they started signing people up to vote.

After visiting shelters around Boston sporadically for months, the four men decided to take their effort national, and they kicked off their campaign with a one-day drive around the country.

On Thursday, volunteers registered homeless and low-income people at 48 locations in 17 states, including California.

Katie Fisher, a field organizer in Washington for the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said the campaign signed up close to 1,000 voters on Thursday alone.

In Boston, in a tent on the grounds of the international headquarters of the Christian Science Church, 170 homeless people signed up to vote. A similar effort in Worcester, Mass., an hour west of Boston, recorded 130 new voters; in New York, the number was 110.

“The whole reason we are doing this voter registration is to empower people to act on their own behalf,” said Fred Atkinson, a former computer consultant who became homeless after a series of personal tragedies. “If we truly want to bridge the gap between homeless and mainstream society, we have to do it by voting.”

The 23,000 homeless people in Massachusetts could fill an entire town, Atkinson said.

“And those are just the ones we can count,” he said. “There are others who live in their station wagons, in tents, in cemeteries. They’re out there.”

Feds Shirking Responsibility to Homeless

Can homelessness end? Not this way


Like many cities, Seattle is working on plans to end homelessness in 10 years. But no city can pull off such a worthy goal without help.

Unless the federal government is a true partner, the now-chronic problems will entangle men, women and children who today still have decent shelter. But even as hard-pressed cities (and states) look at what they can do better, the federal government is in retreat.

Increasingly, the federal vision focuses on spotting opportunities to shirk more responsibility without getting much blame. Another small step backward is likely today, when the House Appropriations Committee votes on housing funds for next year.

A subcommittee has approved across-the-board cuts of some 4.3 percent for most housing programs. The full committee’s members, including U.S. Reps. Norm Dicks and George Nethercutt of Washington, ought to reverse the cuts. Sad to say, housing advocates fear committee Republicans might decide to do even worse by housing so they can restore money for space programs in House Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s Houston-area district.

Homelessness is almost always an unnecessary tragedy. The federal government must join cities in resisting the apathy that treats this serious social problem as a routine and acceptable part of American life. (emphasis added by me)

‘Let’s see: housing for those homeless welfare bums or pork for The Hammer’s home district? That’s a tough one. Lemme think….OK. All done.’

Why isn’t it possible to restore the money for the space program and help build housing for those who need it when we’re talking about less money in total than the amount the Pentagon spends in a month on Star Wars R&D–the single most pointless and massive waste of government money ever devised? Why is that a priority, this sinkhole of $$Billions and Billions$$$ of our tax money over the course of 20+ years for a pipe dream that scientists admit doesn’t and probably won’t ever work and even the Pentagon’s strategists say isn’t necessary or an efficient use of defense dollars, when we’ve got hundreds of thousands of people living on the streets? When did paranoid fantasies get pushed to the top of the list and hard-core reality to the bottom? How did our priorities get so far out of whack?