18 October 2005 by Venuri Siriwardane
Following the suspension of five AlliedBarton security officers at the University of Pennsylvania who submitted a petition to the university president in an attempt to unionize, the officers announced the launch of a multi-campus tour to draw attention to their struggle.
Calling their campaign the “Philly 5 Tour,” the officers hope to join forces with other AlliedBarton employed security personnel across the Northeast to gain a fairer contract, according to Service Employees International Union spokesperson Inga Skippings.
The tour, which begins on Thursday, will come to Temple on Oct. 27. Other stops include Harvard and Georgetown universities.
The five officers were suspended and transferred by their employer, AlliedBarton, after presenting Penn President Amy Gutmann with a petition signed by more than 200 officers in August.
Lottie Durricks, one of the officers who transferred, claimed the petition simply appealed to the university to support their effort to unionize.
“We wanted to let the president of the university know that we wanted to form a union,” Durricks said. “[AlliedBarton] has tried to discourage us from unionizing … with intimidation.”
Durricks emphasized that one of the chief purposes of the tour is to promote campus awareness of the insufficiency of the employment benefits provided by AlliedBarton.
“We’d just like to share information, let them know how we are treated … and that we still want better treatment, better wages, better healthcare,” Durricks said.
Skippings also noted the importance of protecting the rights of security officers who ensure the safety of students, faculty and all those who frequent campuses.
“They have issues … they deserve better wages, they deserve affordable healthcare, they deserve not to be intimidated in the workplace,” Skippings said.
Larry Rubin, spokesperson for AlliedBarton, denied allegations made by security officers that detail the use of scare tactics to dissuade unionization. Rubin insisted that his company has always respected its employees’ right to organize by petitioning the National Labor Relations Board for a union election.
“Anybody can march or protest or hold a press conference,” Rubin said in a telephone interview. “Nobody has petitioned for an election to NLRB, and that’s very important.”
Rubin also claimed the officers at Penn were transferred pending an inquiry made by the university about the appropriateness of their behavior.
“The employees were reassigned to other accounts at the same time and pay rate that they had at Penn,” he said.
Like Penn, Temple subcontracts some of its security services from AlliedBarton.
AlliedBarton security officers at Temple have also pursued unionization with the aid of SEIU and the Student Labor Action Project.
“We are very involved in what’s going on at Temple,” Skippings said. “We are working with organizers who work with the officers to help them attain their goals. Temple’s officers are just like the Penn officers … they are also very interested in coming together to form the union.”
Temple security officer Richard Brooks placed emphasis on the importance of unity among officers.
“They just use us like bodies,” he said. “They’re not really concerned about us so we need a union that’s concerned about us.”
According to SLAP member and junior psychology major Katherine Cohen, security officers on Main Campus also presented President David Adamany with a petition similar to that put forward at Penn in September. “The petition states that Temple students support unionizing and we want the administration to support them, too,” Cohen said.
The officers on this campus, however, have not been penalized by AlliedBarton for their attempts to directly contact university administration.
“As far as we know, nobody presented anything to the president of Temple University,” Rubin said.
Cohen claimed SLAP’s expectations that the university will become involved in unionization efforts are low.
“The problem is we don’t really think that the administration of Temple is really going to do anything … we have not heard anything since we delivered the petition even though we’ve tried to get a statement,” Cohen said.
Skippings said Penn changed its decision to remain uninvolved on Friday and will take steps to negotiate the reinstatement of the transferred officers and the fair treatment of all AlliedBarton security services on its campus. However, Skippings stressed that the tour will commence as planned and the fight to unionize still continues.
“The University of Pennsylvania now says that they are going to work with AlliedBarton to ensure that its employees are treated well, but this is really just the beginning,” she said. “The only way to make sure that these officers are treated well and that this doesn’t happen in the future is for them to get a union contract.”Venuri Siriwardane can be reached at Venuri.Siriwardane@temple.edu