Wednesday, August 6, 2008

DAILY PENNSYLVANIAN: New benefits for local AlliedBarton guards

Security officers at Penn and Temple receive improvements in wages and paid sick leave

Meredith Aska McBride 2/1/08

AlliedBarton security guards at Penn and Temple University received significant increases in wages and sick leave last week.

The adjustments to the security guards' contracts, effective last month at Penn and today at Temple, provide for up to three days' paid sick leave at both Penn and Temple and a wage increase from $9.70 to $15 per hour for roving security guards at Penn.

This follows the policy that Penn instituted last year granting guards one day of paid sick leave for each year they work on campus.

"After researching median wage rates offered at local institutions, AlliedBarton and DPS were determined to increase the starting wage rates for all Penn Patrol security officers," Vice President of Public Safety Maureen Rush wrote in a statement released yesterday. "[The] benefit has been well-received by the Allied security officers and we expect the Temple officers will share the same sentiment."

The increase is the latest step in a campaign that began at Penn in 2005 when five guards presented a petition to University President Amy Gutmann in favor of unionization.

The guards were then suspended by AlliedBarton and transferred to another location. Gutmann then publicly asked the company to reinstate the guards at Penn, and two of the five eventually returned to campus.

Guards, organizers and community members have repeatedly criticized AlliedBarton for not providing adequate training, medical benefits, sick leave or a living wage to its security guards. But many consider the recent announcement a step in the right direction.

"It is the largest effort to raise African American workers into the middle class in our city's history," said Bishop Dwayne Royster, pastor at Living Water United Church of Christ in North Philadelphia and a member of the Philadelphia Officers and Workers Rising coalition. In Philadelphia, 97 percent of private security guards are black.

"It's a substantial gain but it's not the ultimate goal," said Jobs With Justice organizer Eduardo Soriano-Castillo, who has worked on the POWR campaign for the past several years.

"We're happy with it, and obviously we're glad to see that change happens," said Nic Riley, a College senior and member of the Student Labor Action Project. "But there's still work to be done on the campaign."

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