For years now, Jobs with Justice has been working with security guards in Philadelphia to professionalize this industry.
There are 16,000 security guards in our city. These jobs are among the most deadly in our city. In fact, only police officers are more often murdered on the job during violent incidents.
Despite that fact, security guards tend to earn poverty wages, lack access to quality health care and have few opportunities to career advancement. The guards that protect our city’s most precious cultural treasures earn a median income of $16,000 per year.
That’s why when security guards in our city reached out to Jobs with Justice wanting to fight to improve their lives, we were excited to get involved.
Over the years, we have won many victories such as improving sick leave benefits for hundreds of guards.
Last year, though, was our biggest win yet. A group of guards at the Philadelphia Museum of Art won a election to form their own labor union, the Philadelphia Security Officers Union (PSOU).
It is almost unheard off for a union to grow from the grassroots up and win an election against company threats, yet they did it.
Unfortunately, leaders from the Philadelphia Museum of Art and AlliedBarton (the guards direct employer) do not want these workers to have a voice and to implement the changes that they propose. That is why, though they won their election in October of 2009, they still aren’t planning improvements. AlliedBarton is filling challenges to the election, now for the second time, to stall progress.
The PSOU is fighting to improve the museum. They feel that public safety, the art and museum workers are in danger. A union contract can will change that by enhancing training standards and reducing the high staffing turn-over rates.
But, before we can make these changes, we have to first get AlliedBarton to sit down with the PSOU and negotiate.
Timothy Rub, the CEO of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, has a direct stake on this issue. That is why he used his in-house security camera system to illegally spy on the union during their election campaign (see some of his photos of us here) and then volunteered the tapes to AlliedBarton lawyers in hopes of overturning the election (is so called evidence was overruled by the National Labor Relations Board in January 2010, nice try though).
Yesterday, on Radio Times, Mr. Rub claimed that he is neutral to the issue of unionization (fast forward to minute 26) at the museum. Given the camera incident, that’s an obvious hypocrisy (not to mention the $25,000 donation from AlliedBarton to the museum). Despite this claim, Mr. Rub has a direct stake in this issue.
The Philadelphia Security Officers Union is proposing a plan to improve the safety of the general public, the collections and museum workers by reducing the high worker turn-over through a progressive training program, improving wages, benefits and working conditions.
During the same interview, Mr. Rub said that the museum is ready to pay more for their security (our plan will not cost the museum any more money in the short-term). So, if we won the election, and he is ready to make changes in compensation, why is he aiding AlliedBarton as they prevent the PSOU from improving public safety? All it would take is Mr. Rub, picking up the phone calling up AlliedBarton and saying, “Quit stalling and work this out as soon as possible. I even got money to make sure that you will still make a big profit and can make big donations.”
Every day that Mr. Rub continues to play this shell game, is another day that the public faces unnecessary risk.
Join us at a LOUD protest during the opening of the Picasso Exhibit on March 5, at 4:30 pm at the West entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Wear a tux, it’s a top affair abd bring something to bang on.
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