15 March 2005 by Andrew Thompson
Union officials and contract security officers on campus have begun discussions on organizing for improved pay, benefits and training practices. The organizers claim that the officers’ employing company, AlliedBarton Security Services, is using fear tactics to dissuade possible unionization.
AlliedBarton spokesman Larry Rubin defended the company’s treatment of its workers and said that it has not received any complaints.
“To date there has been no word to AlliedBarton from the Temple employees,” said Rubin. “AlliedBarton certainly provides fair wages, outstanding benefits and tremendous training for its employees. The security officers on the beat have the same coverage as the president of the company has.”
Members of the Service Employees International Union, a 1.8-million-member union in the AFL-CIO, gathered with security workers and students on March 2 in Tuttleman Learning Center to make a case for unionizing AlliedBarton employees to the University community. The company’s workers are hired for security jobs not occupied by Temple workers, such as verifying ID cards at the entrances of buildings.
No specific requests have been articulated by the security officers at this point, and SEIU representatives are still gathering a consensus as to how the officers hope to benefit from a union.
Mike Johnson, an eight-year employee of AlliedBarton, voiced his complaints over pay and training. Johnson started working for $8 an hour and now receives $8.90 an hour.
“For security being important, it does not pay like it’s important,” said Johnson, who said he arrived at the meeting one hour late because “relief is either late or never shows up.” He also criticized the health benefits he receives from his employer, citing a $110 cost per pay period.
“By us having to struggle to pay bills and pay rent and buy food, we accept it,” said Johnson.
Johnson described his job training as inadequate, which he said consisted of watching videos and being tested on them.
“It was all visual training,” he said. “After you take this visual training, then you fill out your application and if you’re accepted, you go in the back and get your uniform.”
Frank Thornton, a representative from the SEIU, said AlliedBarton “[created] a climate of fear and intimidation” among its workers to try and dissuade them from unionizing.
“The [AlliedBarton] administration had told them, ‘Talk to these people and you’ll be gone. We’re going to know who’s there, we’ll have people watching,’” Thornton said.
Johnson said that AlliedBarton instructed him to ignore union organizers.
“We were told, ‘You don’t have anything to say to them. Get away from them as quick as you can,’” Johnson said.
Rubin denied that AlliedBarton has discouraged workers from speaking with union officials.
“At Temple specifically, AlliedBarton has never been notified that there is this intention by the workers and they certainly can petition the National Labor Relations Board for an election of their members there if they are interested in creating a union,” he said.
AlliedBarton workers have already unionized in San Francisco and Chicago, where they received guaranteed annual pay raises, employer-paid individual and family health care and new training programs for officers.
The security officers’ effort to unionize has not been addressed by the University, which has chosen to remain neutral on the issue.
“Temple is aware of this idea and we have been informed about it, but the University really doesn’t have a position on this one way or the other,” said Director of Communications Ray Betzner. University security officers not hired by private contract are already unionized.
“The University is basically staying out of the fight right now,” said Thornton. “That level of awareness on campus is not there yet.”
With the collaboration of grassroots organizations and student groups like the Student Labor Action Project, which hosted the March 2 meeting, the budding union hopes to raise consciousness on campus.
“Ultimately it’s a matter of creating enough heat … to force Allied to come to the table and do what’s right,” said Thornton. “They’ve actually, at Johnson and Hardwick, started a letter writing campaign. We’d like to elicit that from the entire campus.”
Andrew Thompson can be reached at email@example.com.