From today’s Philly Inquirer: 2,500 Philly security guards unionized under Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and ratified their first contract today.
The contract brings wage increases and health benefits to guards at the Gallery, the University of Pennsylvania, the Convention Center, and Temple University…
The contract, ratified Saturday at University City High School, begins Jan. 1. Most officers will see their hourly wages increase from between $8 and $11 per hour to between $10.45 and $13 by the contract’s expiration on Sept. 30, 2016, the union said.
Full-time officers will receive health benefits starting Jan. 1, 2014…the four companies signing the contracts represent about 80 percent of the Philadelphia market.
As I understand it, this victory is the fruition of a long-term strategy by SEIU to organize the majority of Philly’s security guard workforce through top-down means (union officials making deals with company officials without much input from workers), which has irked some potential members and other labor activists. In particular, the University of Pennsylvania’s outdoor security guards–the folks who patrol University City in yellow jackets, on foot or by bike–decided to form their own union without SEIU and attempted to join the Philadelphia Security Officers Union (PSOU) as I reported in the City Paper this past March:
The University of Pennsylvania’s outdoor security officers — the ones who stand watch or pedal around University City — are attempting to unionize, for the third time in seven years.
The first time they went up against their employer — the behemoth, Conshohocken-based AlliedBarton — they had the backing of another international outfit: the 2.1-million-member Service Employees International Union (SEIU). In the clash between the two giants, the local workers were trampled. The D.C.-based SEIU split town without warning, leaving openly pro-union workers to face management’s wrath.
[The first] effort began around 2005 with help from SEIU’s International D.C. headquarters, which brought in the activist group Jobs with Justice to provide ground support. For a while, things seemed to be progressing. Then, as City Paper reported in 2007, “SEIU pulled its three organizers off the Penn and Temple campuses. People the guards had been working with for two years simply vanished.”
SEIU had struck a deal with AlliedBarton that would allow the union to easily organize security guards in other cities — if it left Philadelphia alone.
SEIU had its eye on a much larger grand strategy which appears to have paid off. But it is very understandable that some workers would feel alienated by these tactics.
However, as the Inquirer reported, some Penn security guards have been included in the mega-unions new Philly contract and that has caused some confusion. I just spoke with Curtis Parker, an outdoor guard for the University and he confirms that they are not covered by the new SEIU contract, but the indoor Penn guards are (the ones you see in the library or residence halls in white uniforms). Indeed, AlliedBarton, which is one of the four security companies covered by the new SEIU contract, is stalling the outdoor guards and dragging out negotiations over their contract. The PSOU guards are sick of it and are planning a protest at 11:00 AM this Friday, outside Penn president Amy Guttman’s residence at 3812 Walnut Street). They are demanding that Guttmann pressure AlliedBarton into negotiating a fair contract with PSOU. It remains to be seen whether the company, and their customers at the university, feel that their recent deal with SEIU protects them against accusations of being anti-worker.