PITTSBURGH – Security officers in Pittsburgh are celebrating a new contract that, for many, almost doubles the pay and benefits they were getting just a few years ago.

The agreement, announced in Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto’s conference room on Tuesday, covers more than 1,100 workers who protect most of the city’s iconic buildings, museums and universities.

Just three years ago, when they negotiated their first contract, said Sam Williamson, Western Pennsylvania district director for Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union, some of these workers were making $8.50 an hour and had no employer-funded health insurance.

Now, their jobs include insurance, he said, and they’re moving toward a living wage.

“There’ll be continued significant wage increases that will raise the base or starting pay to $14.20 an hour over the course of the contract,” said Williamson, “and the average pay will be a little over $15 an hour by the end of the agreement.”

He said those raises will bring an additional $7 million over four years into low-income households in neighborhoods across Pittsburgh.

While politicians have claimed the economy has recovered from the devastation of the Great Recession, economists said most of the gains have gone to the top 1 percent of earners. Williamson pointed out that for the vast majority of Americans, wages and income have stagnated.

“Income inequality has continued to widen,” he said, “and the only exception to that is where workers are able to organize into unions and bargain collectively for the kinds of wage increases that they actually deserve.”

Williamson said many security workers still report having trouble affording food and difficulty paying monthly utility bills. He said the new contract will be a big step in turning that around.

“Between those wage investments, continued investment in health care that will make sure that people have access to really good-quality health insurance, and the introduction of paid sick days,” he said, “this agreement makes a huge improvement in over 1,000 Pittsburghers’ lives.”

32BJ SEIU is the largest union for security officers in the country.