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)