Private security officers have gained the support of some Newark, NJ, officials – including Mayor Cory Booker – to unionize, according to an article from The Star-Ledger.

Union officials seeking to represent the roughly 21,000 privately employed officers in New Jersey took their aspirations to Newark City Hall on Dec. 6, 2012.  Booker says that the thousands of privately hired security officers overseeing sensitive and even vulnerable city sites and businesses receive wages reflecting “second-class” status, the article notes.

According to the report authored by representatives of Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union, which organized the Dec. 6 event, security officers for private companies statewide make an average of $11.74 an hour with few benefits.

An article from WBGO News profiles private security officer Michael Thomas, who has worked in security for more than 20 years and makes $8.50 an hour, requiring him to supplement his income and support his family with a job as a pizza deliveryman.

Another private security officer profiled in The Star-Ledger – Andre Lugo, 30, of Newark – says he has had to forego doctor and dentist appointments because he cannot afford them and his employer does not provide health insurance.

However, Rahaman Muhammad, the president of Local 617 of the SEIU, called Booker’s support for security officers’ collective bargaining rights hypocritical, given that City Hall employs private security officers as well, the article notes. Muhammad called Booker’s endorsement a political ploy intended to win over critical union support.

The article also reports that Booker says he would initiate discussions with companies that supply the officers to city facilities and other sites within Newark in the hopes of getting them to agree to provide better pay and benefits for officers. He cited earlier successes – saying his administration had secured better wages for custodians and other employees working at city facilities.