It isn’t accurate to call this news any more, I guess.  It has been almost 2 months since I stepped down from ROC.

If you didn’t know, you may be confused by my recent quote in the Spring Edition of Edible Philly that just hit newsstands last week, in which I talk about the state of the restaurant industry-

“Everybody likes to brand themselves as being sustainable,” says Rodriguez. He thinks restaurant buzzwords like “sustainable” don’t mean much when the values implied don’t extend to the people who work there. “It doesn’t make any sense to have locally grown lettuce if the person putting the salad together has to go to work when they’re sick.”

Pick one up.  The extensive expose was courageously written by Emily Teel, herself a local restaurant server and journalist.

Don’t let the article fool you though, I began talking with Ms. Teel late last year.  I stepped down as the Lead Organizer at Philly ROC in February.

My new job, as an organizer with Philadelphian’s Organized to Witness Empower and Rebuild (POWER, a PICO affiliate) is a return to my old roots.

See the announcement on the POWER website here!

During my days as the Executive Director of Jobs with Justice (from 2003- 2008ish) I was also the coordinator of Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ).  I have always been a rampant “networker.”  In fact, in that capacity, I attended the first national meeting of the Restaurant Opportunities Center in the national offices in Chicago (around 2006?).

Anyway, in my time at Jobs with Justice, which I loved, I also noticed that faith communities organized in a entirely different way than my friends in the labor movement.

Though this is not universally true, I think that faith communities organize based on the strength of their relationships, where (often) labor communities organize on the strength of a plan or end goal.

Maybe it is simply a difference of style that works for me , but I have always found that “relational” style refreshing and extremely powerful.

This came to bare in a major way during the Philadelphia Officers and Workers Rising (POWR!) campaign to organize security officers campaign.

The POWR campaign was hosted and sustained by the faith community.  In the darkest moments, JWJ had to lay off all of the staff.

Eduardo and I had to survive on contributions from our family and friends (and my girlfriend at the time, and now wife, Emily Randle) and unemployment checks.

It was the hopes, love, support and prayers of security officers and our friends in the faith community like Rev. Dwayne Royster, Rev. Jay Broadnax, Rev. Schaunel Steinnagel, Rev. Andrew Plotcher, Rev. Beverely Dale and many more that got us through.

The POWR campaign got its only financial resource (post-JWJ) from the Presbyterian Hunger Program and Bread and Roses Community Fund.

I learned a lot from these leaders and we accomplished amazing things together.  The effort to win paid sick days evolved into wage theft campaigns and eventually into the independent Philadelphia Security Officers Union (PSOU).

Since that time, the PSOU has won more than $2 million in wage (extremely conservative estimate), benefit and working condition improvements in the city and is still representing security officers well at the Museum, UPenn and the Riverfront.

Most of all, though, I will never forget that moment when I witnessed the power of faith.

 

PSOU SS 17

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After months of trying to vault our message of “the workers need paid sick days” over the official wall that guarded the Temple University Board of Trustees, Rev. Dwayne Royster caused what I will always remember as the “Holy Disruption.”

At this rally on December 10, 2008, the Reverend stood in front of the police that were blocking the door to the Board of Trustees meeting, preventing us from communicating like they had so many times before.

Dwayne spoke about how God had called on so many before to disrupt their lives for the greater good, how Mary had to disrupt her life to give birth to Jesus.

At that, he called on us hundred or so protesters, and even the police, to disrupt the meeting for justice.

At that, Reverend (now a Bishop) turned around, faced the police and began marching toward the door.

I was dumbfounded when the police moved away from the doors.

We marched in.

PSOU SS 14

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We lined the stairwell and the doors.  We sang and we prayed, and when the police warned us to leave, we locked arms and sang louder.

Only when the paddy wagons pulled up and zip ties were laid at our feet did we exit.

I knew at that time that I wanted to be a part of this world.

I am proud to now organize for an organization lead by Bishop Dwayne Royster and am looking forward to organizing for POWER,

-The Union Contract Will Go Into Effect On April 29 In Honor Of May Day

A majority of security officers employed by AlliedBarton Security Services voted to ratify a collective bargaining agreement after 4 years of organizing.

The agreement will increase wages by 14.5% over the life of the 3 year agreement and will institute a grievance procedure and a seniority system.

“We are proud that our 4 year struggle has resulted in a better quality of life for our co-workers and families,” says Donald Lindsey, President of the independent union.

The union cites their long activism campaign and the help of supportive city council representatives including Wilson Goode Jr.

The union members wages will increase from $10.03 per hour to $10.88 per hour.

Though the museum is not legally bound by the Philadelphia Living Wage (PLW) ordinance, a law championed by Councilman Goode, the union and the Councilman have pointed to the PLW as an acceptable standard.

The union also credits the support of Councilman Mme. Maria Quinones-Sanchez, Bill Greenlee, Blondell Reynolds-Brown, Curtis Jones Jr., Janie Blackwell, Bill Green, the Philadelphia labor movement, student activists, Jobs with Justice and dozens of local faith leaders for their hard won victory against the nations second largest security company.

“We began organizing security officers in 2006 after SEIU left town,” says Fabricio Rodriguez, PSOU organizer.

“Back then, we felt like the state workers in Wisconsin must feel now. We had no union option. We decided to build our own,” says Rodriguez.

Dynnita Bryant, union shop steward says of their future plans, “We have three more contracts to settle and we will keep on organizing workers to become leaders in their work places.”

“Any worker can get organized and improve their lives. We have proven it,” says Sulaiman Kamara, union Treasurer.

The union will celebrate it’s victory at a party at the Newspaper Guild, 1329 Buttonwood St. on Wednesday, April 20 at 5:30 pm. The contract will go into effect on April 29 in honor of International Workers Rights Day which is recognized on May 1 around the world.

Sites Lack Progress of Workers Rights

Philadelphia City Council proposed early this week an amendment to remove funding to the Philadelphia Museum of Art due to the failure of its subcontracted security company AlliedBarton to reach a collective bargaining agreement with the Philadelphia Security Officers Union. This proposal comes one year after Museum COO Gail Harrity had promised progress, in a written letter to Council President Verna, with regard to workers’ rights.

Last year the Philadelphia Security Officers Union waged a campaign to prevent the Philadelphia Museum of Art from receiving city funds unless AlliedBarton recognized the independent labor union. The company had refused to recognize the union after they won a federally mandated union election in 2009.

The union suspended its campaign after Museum leaders made an effort to resolve the on-going labor strife.

In a letter dated May 10th, 2010 and addressed to Council President Verna, Ms. Harrity stated that the Museum would make sure that its contractors meet the wage levels outlined in the Philadelphia Living Wage Ordinance.

The ordinance sets wage levels for workers at certain city-related agencies and properties at $10.88/hour, and also includes minimum health insurance requirements.

“In the ten months that we have been at the bargaining table, AlliedBarton has never offered anything close to a living wage. They offered us only a $.25 raise at first, and then $.30,” stated Sulaiman Kamara, AlliedBarton guard and union Treasurer.

He added, “It’s insufficient and proves that AlliedBarton can’t be reformed. We have been trying for years. They are an embarrassment to our city’s standards. They have got to go.”

Fabricio Rodriguez, the union organizer added, “Either the Museum will be held accountable to their promise to tax payers, or AlliedBarton will be.”

The union now has a new war cry: “No contract? No money! AlliedBarton has got to go!”

Rodriguez believes that the union has enough votes in City Council to take away the City’s contribution to the Museum.

The Museum will appear before City Council on April 11 at 12:45 pm to request $2.4 million in city funds. The union has called for a mass protest at city hall at that time.

Annual Gala Will Face Union Protest

The security officers at the Philadelphia Museum of Art will protest during the Young Friends Winter Gala this Saturday at 6:30 pm (starting at the West/back Entrance, opposite of the “Rocky Steps”) to draw attention to their effort to improve their wages, working conditions and museum safety.

The 150 security officers at the Philadelphia Museum of Art protect our city’s most precious cultural heritage but earn poverty wages.

Being a security officer is a physically demanding job. Standing on the hard marble floors for 8 hours each day sends these workers home with chronic joint problems. These problems that are compounded by the lack of access to quality, affordable healthcare.

To add insult to injury, despite the fact that these workers will insure the safety of some of our regions wealthiest socialites at the Young Friends Winter Gala this Saturday, March 12 at 6:30 pm, these workers earn wages below the Federal Poverty Limit. The Young Friends Winter Gala tickets cost $225 to $275 each, or approximately a security officer’s entire weeks wages.

After nearly two decades of working in poverty, these guards fought back. In October of 2009, the security officers formed the independent Philadelphia Security Officers Union, after all attempts to reform their employer, AlliedBarton, and their employers client, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, failed.

Unfortunately, even even this strategy has yet to yield the progress that the officers need to improve their work lives and museum safety.

Despite a written promise from Museum COO and President, Gail Harrity to Councilman Wilson Goode Jr. and the Philadelphia City Council, to increase their security budget to reflect unionization (view Mrs. Harrity’s promise here http://goo.gl/iZ8r8 ), AlliedBarton has never offered the union a wage increase anywhere near what the museum stated in their letter.

The Philadelphia Security Officers Union and AlliedBarton have been negotiating for 10 months. AlliedBarton’s last wage increase offering was $0.30.

“Activism has gotten us all the changes that we have won up until this point including up to three days of paid sick leave and has saved the jobs of 7 employees who were active in the union. Activism will make all the difference,” states Sulaiman Kamara, museum guard and union treasurer.

Join us, this Saturday, March 12th at 6:30 pm outside of the West Entrance of the the Museum (this is on the “back” side of the museum, near Fairmount Park) to loudly call attention to our effort. Our protest will coincide with the Young Friends Winter Gala, the major fundraising party of the year for the museum.

Wave Of Firings And Punishments After Union Protest And Election Announcements-

October 10th was the one year anniversary of the election victory of the Philadelphia Security Officers Union at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

When we hugged and toasted in the rain that morning, we had no illusions that the next steps would be easy. We were right.

AlliedBarton, with the winking support of museum Director, Timothy Rub, dragged us into court for six months until they were forced by City Council (Notably Wilson Goode, William Greenlee and Janie Blackwell) and Federal Authorities to recognize the union.

Since that time, negotiations have gone, if not more slowly than we planned, relatively smoothly. The only thing left on the table in the group of items known as “non-economic issues” was that AlliedBarton wanted the union to; upon the signing of a contract, waive the right to protest, handbill and engage the general public at the museum in any way if we have future problems with AlliedBarton.

Direct-action and protest are the tools that we used to get where we are. There would be no present union or company/union discussions happening if not for these strategies and tactics. With that in mind, the union told the company that we would hold onto these rights until AlliedBarton could prove that the workers would be seen as equals with the company. No negotiations are possible if the parties involved are not equals.

One sign of this would be if AlliedBarton put a compensation package on the table that is reasonable after all of the sacrifices that the guards have made over the years.

This was stated AlliedBarton at our negotiation session in July.

As we got closer to the anniversary, members of the union began to demand more progress. A discussion with more than a dozen guards from the museum began to add it all up.

“Guards wages have gone down from what they were in 1992, from $14.48 to $9.50 and $10.03 per hour,” one guard pointed out.

“We already haven’t had any raise in the last two years. Raises were frozen back when we started organizing.” said one guard.

“Whatever raise we do get should be make up for the six months that AlliedBarton and the museum refused to recognize us.” said another guard.

“They think that if there are other companies at the museum that don’t have to give sick-days and raises, then they will just under-mine the union workers.” said another.

We decided launch a campaign to bring the other guards into the union and hold an event (not necessarily a “protest”) to commemorate the year anniversary of our election victory.

We began planning our event and waited to see what kind of a raise AlliedBarton was prepared to offer the guards. After loosing wages year after years for the last 18 years, we expected something close to the federal standard (see Service Contract Act) of $13.48/hour plus another $3.24/hour for benefits.

On September 27, AlliedBarton offered the guards a $.25/hour raise.

Charlotte Thompson, a museum guard for the last 8 years and union negotiator, looked at the AlliedBarton chief negotiator, and told him, “This is an insult. It’s like a slap in the face.”

With that, we ended the negotiation session.

Rally and Reprisal

The October 1 event that was originally going to be more of a celebration switched to be a protest of security guards expressing their outrage (though Jim Walsh and Luis Parilla were with us celebrating their victorious election to join the PSOU that occurred the day before the rally). More than 8 guards spoke about how insulted they felt.

Juanita Love, a guard employed by Roman Sentry at the museum and a long time union activist also spoke.

After the rally, we were joined by an energetic drum line that kept union supporters rocking on the museum steps until after the sunset.

The bosses watched on from the top of the steps and pointed out to each other all of the guards that were participating in the protest.

The following Tuesday, Juanita Love was terminated.

Though Juanita was relieved of her post by her AlliedBarton supervisor and by her Roman Sentry supervisor, she was told that since she didn’t inform the corporate office of her move from her post (at 5:15 pm on Friday) that she was fired.

Juanita is the most outspoken leader among the Roman Sentry guards. They are slated to have their election to join the PSOU on October 28.

Cherelle Cross, a security guard who was marching and chanting with us, was terminated by Wednesday.

Scotland Yard announced that they were revoking paid sick-leave and paid vacations that guards have had in years past.

Eleanor Nixon, a Roman Sentry guard and union leader who attended the rally, had her hours slashed by Tuesday.

By Monday, all of the guards at the Perelman Annex were informed that they were no longer allowed to take lunch breaks a decision that was reversed after union leaders Lashan Stewart and Kamira Gardener protested it with the supervisor.

AlliedBarton responded with a new Perelman Annex policy (which has been blamed on the union) is that guards have to complete “consecutive tours” ten times per shift. In other words, guards have to walk the five floors at the Perleman non-stop, for 6 hours per day.

As union leader Derrick Agricola put it, “If they expect that kind of action out of us, they should at least lay out some gatorade and orange slices.”

The day after the new policy was implemented, Asia Ray and Kenneth Adams, two union leaders at the facility, were terminated for “insubordination,” i.e. not being physically able to complete the new AlliedBarton gauntlet.

These firings, changes of working conditions and reprisals violate a number of federal labor laws and are the museum’s latest attempt to stop our long journey toward justice.

But, we shall not be moved.

The Philadelphia Security Officers Union will hold a press conference on Wednesday, October 27th, at 4 pm on the front steps (top of the “Rocky” steps) of the Philadelphia Museum of Art to announce a new campaign of direct-action to force progress at this institution.

How You Can Help:

1.Join us for the press conference on October 27th at 4 pm on top of the Rocky Steps and stand in solidarity with us.
2.Be a part of the Solidarity Brigade, strengthening the Roman Sentry Guards when the go in to vote in front of the Roman Sentry office on October 28th at 7:30 am at 1005 Spring Garden St. Sign up with Fabricio by calling 215-703-8313 or email fabricio.rodriguez(-at-)gmail.com
3.Support our fundraising party on October 30th at 7 pm (after the Economic Town Hall meeting) at 1924 Spring Garden ($5 admission)

Back in March, Swarthmore students began agitating against AlliedBarton because of their refusal to meet with us and bargain at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

It was just announced that, after investigating AlliedBarton’s anti-union behavior in various markets, Swarthmore will not renew their contract with AlliedBarton.

I hope that the university will make sure that the new company will retain and train the existing workforce.

Nonetheless, this is a example of how being union-friendly makes good business sense.

PSOU’s campaign was also able to prevent some good union jobs from being sub-contracted in North Umberland County.

Treat your workers right and you will be treated well too.

One week into my new job as the Philadelphia Coordinator of Reform Immigration for America and I survived through one protest.

Today was just about as crazy as you could imagine.

First of all, the Philadelphia Security Officers Union had their forth negotiations with AlliedBarton. Our negotiations began at 2 in the afternoon. Our team of Charlotte Thompson, Margarett Snead; VP, Bernardo Dickerson, Warren Davis and Lead Negotiator, Lance Geren made it happen today. Despite the fact that I had to keep leaving the room to answer media calls about the Diamondbacks protest, these folks have probably brought us within one session of settling our union rights. We could even wrap this up by our September deadline.

This agreement will bring union rights to these workers for the first time in almost twenty years!

So, check the time frame, our protest was at Citizens Bank Stadium at 6.

The immigrant rights movement in our city is very strong. At least 100 people showed up and we had a loud picket going for at least an hour. Organizations like Juntos, New Sanctuary Movement, Jobs with Justice and the Unitarian Universalist Church and a bunch of young, energetic folks from the ISO put their people on the street!

There were three counter-counter-protesters with us today. They were peaceful and didn’t engage us in any way. They just stood around our picket holding their signs. One guys sign said, “Which part of illegal don’t you understand?”

Our message was that we don’t want our Phillies to go to Phoenix and be harassed for being non-white, which the law allows. Seriously, Jason Werth might be from mars for all I know, he has superpowers.

Yes, like it or not, non-white-skinned people will be treated differently than fair complected people.

Darker people will be asked to show their papers. Other people have been forced to submit to such indignities in history. Whether you are talking about black Afrikans having to show which bantustan they lived in, to Native Americans being chased back onto the early reservations at gun point by police, the mere act of demanding that a person prove of their legitimacy, based on their complexion, is dehumanizing.

My answer to the “illegal” sign: “What Part Of Human Do You Not Understand?”

The movement isn’t even finished for the week. On Thursday, Philadelphia will make history by declaring ourself as “The Most Welcoming City For Immigrants In The Nation.”

City and State elected leaders such as Mayor Michael Nutter, Representative Tony Payton, Representative Babette Josephs and Senator Daylin Leach will pose an alternative to the repressive Arizona SB 1070.

This is a big deal.

Then, Democracia Ahora will be at the Phillies game on Thursday too, with their own form of resistance.

You can check out the footage from the Diamondbacks game tonight(now) at 10 o’clock on Fox, ABC and Univision, on the radio at WHYY and KYW and in print in Al Dia, Impacto and the Inquirer.

Also, if you didn’t see me debate Dom Giordano from 1210 AM on CN8′s Larry Kane Report, it airs again this Wednesday at 5:30.

Ronald Rabena, AlliedBarton Philadelphia Division President, sent a written response to Councilman Greenlee yesterday.  The letter was in response to Councilman Greenlee’s forwarding a letter that Timothy Rub (Director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art) wrote to Councilman Greenlee, expressing his wishes to the Councilman.  Mr. Rub, wished that AlliedBarton would start negotiating with the Philadelphia Security Officers Union (PSOU).  Mr. Rub also wished that he would also get $2.6 in tax money for the museum.

It was almost a secret wish, sent only to Councilman Greenlee.  Thankfully, Councilman Greenlee sent on Mr. Rub’s wish to the people who can actually grant the wish, AlliedBarton.

Mr. Rabena, in his responce, denying the guards the right to begin bargaining at this time, states some interesting things.

When the PSOU won the election, AlliedBarton said “we look forward to working with the union.”  Then, a couple weeks later, they filed objections to the election.

In January, the NRLB through out their objections and stated that the PSOU had not violated any labor laws in the course of the election and urged AlliedBarton to recognize the union and start negotiating.  AlliedBarton filled another round of appeals.

In this letter Rabena states that the company observed the PSOU violating some NRLB rules that apparently the NRLB doesn’t know about.  Therefore, AlliedBarton will not cooperate at this time.  BUT, pending the 3rd NRLB ruling in our favor, they can’t wait to work with us… unless they can find another way to avoid it.

Rabena then goes on to point his finger at Timothy Rub.

Following in the footsteps of Councilman Goode, AlliedBarton points out that the Philadelphia Museum of Art can set any wage standard that they like.

Rabena states, “…AlliedBarton always strives to provide the highest wage and benefit levels…AlliedBarton… is limited as to the compensation it can pay by the hourly rate that our clients are willing to pay us.”

This is important in two respects.  Firstly, if you recall, Timothy Rub told Marty Moss Coane (NPR WHYY) that he was prepared to pay more once AlliedBarton had gotten done running us through the gauntlet.  Secondly, it has been established that Timothy Rub can change wage rates at any moment, by making it part of his contractual standards with AlliedBarton.  Timothy Rub testified last Monday that the AlliedBarton contract is now on a month-to-month basis.

Just to recap:

The PSOU contacts Rub while he was still in Cleveland in the summer of 2009 and asked him to make changes.

Timothy Rub says that it isn’t something that he can deal with.

The PSOU has a party and issues a video communique to Timothy Rub in September of 2009 asking for him to make changes.

Timothy Rub says that it is out of his controll.

After giving Mr. Rub the chance to make changes and getting no where, they win an election forming an independent union, beating the largest, US-based security company.

Timothy Rub says that the he cannot make the changes that we seek.

Timothy Rub comes on the radio and says he is willing to pay more.

Councilman Goode establishes that Timothy Rub can make AlliedBarton pay what ever he wants.

AlliedBarton says that Timothy Rub can make them pay what ever he wants.

What’s the hold up, Tim?

Download the letter from AlliedBarton here…

Oh yeah, I am not so good on the graphics, but here is what I picture, Tim Rub accepting a big check from AlliedBarton for the $15,000 per year donation that the museum gets from AlliedBarton.  Mr. Rub is handing Mr. Rabena a $4.6 million dollar check for the yearly contract.  Mr. Rub is wearing a t-shirt that says, “I’m with the union-buster.”  Mr. Rabena is wearing a t-shirt that says, “I’m with the guy who pays poverty wages.”

Go to work…

Not surprising, treat your people terribly and don’t train them properly, you will loose business.  The PSOU has proposed several customer service improvements that we would love to implement (by the way, security guard customer service is the biggest complaint at the museum) if we could mandate that all of the workers were given the same level of training on this issue.

Until then, don’t be surprised if you get bad service by a guard whose only training was “smile.”

http://www.riponcollegedays.com/home/index.cfm?event=displayArticlePrinterFriendly&uStory_id=769f966a-bae2-41ad-aba9-f23c275123c0