Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Philadelphia Museum Exposed on National TV For Poor Treatment of Guards

Yesterday, Dynnita Bryant and Fabricio Rodriguez appeared on GRIT TV, a nationally syndicated talk show.

The interview talks about the history of the five year long campaign as well as many of the road blocks that the newly formed Philadelphia Security Officers Union faces in making it to the final victory -- a union contract.

Dynitta Bryant tells a national audience about the favoritism, low-wages and bad working conditions faced by guards at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Fabricio expands the view and puts it into a historical context, comparing the struggle of the PSOU with that faced by the Memphis sanitation workers who went on strike for union recognition in 1968. During this strike, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr was assassinated.

"The mayor of Memphis told the sanitation workers, 'We won't recognize your union.' That is what they are telling us here at the museum," states Rodriguez.

The Philadelphia Security Officers Union says that this interview signals the launch of the next phase of their campaign at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. PSOU will engage museum members, donors and supporters from across the nation at museum events to encourage CEO Timothy Rub to push AlliedBarton from dragging their feet and toward progress with the union.

Watch the video here...

GRITtv: Small Unions and the Employee Free Choice Act

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Temple Community Strengthens as PASNAP Struggle Continues

Submitted by Marie Ernaux on Thu, 12/03/2009 - 4:30pm

Tuesday evening, members of Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP) and union officials gathered together students, Temple staff and community members to educate the Temple community on the day-to-day realities of healthcare providers at Temple Hospital. President of AFSCME Local 1723 and Temple University Staff Paul Dannenfelser began the discussion by sharing that this was another chapter in the story of Temple University’s approach to Labor on campus. He shared that his union went through a similar two-year fight for a contract in which Temple University was “not only anti-union but anti-worker.” He expressed earnestly the energy of the room, saying, “The nurses’ fight is our fight, the student fight is our fight. We are all in this together.”

The panel of speakers consisted mostly of PASNAP nurses and allied professionals. Patty Eakin, an Emergency Room RN at Temple since 1983 and President of PASNAP, spoke about the importance of fighting for minimum nurse-to-patient ratios at Temple as well as state-wide. Recent studies by the US Department of Health and Human Services have shown that low nurse staffing levels have a direct impact on patient care and increase the likelihood of pneumonia, shock, cardiac arrest, and urinary tract infections (http://www.ahrq.gov/research/nursestaffing/nursestaff.htm Hospital Nurse Staffing and Quality of Care). Eakin put forward that the importance of fighting back dangerous policies is part of a nurse’s job description. She explained that as such Temple University’s attempts to establish a “Gag Rule” function in complete opposition to the role of a nurse, which is to advocate on behalf of patient safety.

Maureen May, a nurse for the past 25 years - the last 13 years at Temple’s Critical Care unit - and President of Temple Nurse’s Local, built upon Eakin’s comments. She shared how horrified she was when, after confronting Temple Hospital Management about the dangerously unsafe staffing levels of nurses, she was told, “Well [the nurse] will just have to do the best they can... [The patient] is just going to have to wait four hours.” She asked the crowd, “What if that was you, or someone you loved, who had to wait four hours for appropriate care?” May continued to express the important role nurses play as patient advocates and how their union gives them a protected voice to be able to fight for better standards of care. May added that PASNAP, after 10 years, is the strongest nurses’ union in the state and that Temple is attempting to establish policies to control and weaken the union’s strength. May ended her remarks by sharing feelings of solidarity with the students who came out to the support their struggle, “I’m excited to have this battle [with Temple]. We will certainly be there for you when your time comes.”

Three members of PASNAP’s Allied Professionals Local spoke about their struggles to become part of PASNAP and how those victories strengthened their relationships with nurses at Temple and their consciousness about what was at stake in the contract fight with the Temple Administration. Lorenzo Glover, a respiratory therapist at Temple for 14 years and Executive Board Member of the Allied Professionals Local, spoke about the day-to-day policies that put patients at risk and compromise healthcare providers’ control over care. Glover spoke of understaffing, lack of supplies paramount to care and how he experienced these policies as an explicit attempt by Temple to push out nurses active in the union. Selena Hodge, a Lab Technicion and Vice President of the Allied Professionals Local, spoke on the daily impact of profit-driven Temple Hospital policies. She shared that a big concern for members was Temple’s raising employees’ healthcare coverage costs to $300 a month. She felt that Temple was acting in a vindictive way in these bargaining sessions, behavior that she attributed to the strength of the Union at Temple. Hodge mentioned that Temple is no longer willing to extend tuition benefits to the children of Hospital staff but is willing to spend $3 million toward uniĆ³n-busting efforts. Hodge also finished her remarks on powerful note, “I sign my messages ‘Solidarity and Family’ because what Temple doesn’t understand is that we are a family, and when we’re outside we are all outside.”

Sarah Allen, executive board member of the Nurses’ Local, shared another policy that jeopardizes patient care while leaving nurses unable to fulfill their professional obligations. Allen talked about being floated to departments where she has little to no experience because of a narrow understanding by Temple management that nurses are exchangeable and not specialized. She also shared that with 12- and eight-hour shift rotations there will be four-hour windows in which staffing is extremely low. Recently, she shared, a nursing supervisor told her that her seventh patient could “just be put on a bed for two hours until more staff arrived.” Allen put this experience into context by adding that “patients admitted to Temple Hospital are very sick because the hospital only accepts very sick patients. Imagine if it was you being told to wait that long.” Like the other PASNAP members, Allen reaffirms, “[Our fight] is not about money, although we want a fair wage. We can’t provide the service patients need. It’s cruel and embarassing to not be able to provide the care because of lack of supplies.”

Students from the Temple College Democrats, Student Labor Action Project and the Temple Democratic Socialists were part of the coalition that Temple Nurses and Allied Professionals brought together to support their struggle. Dan Assaraf from Temple Democratic Socialists situated the Temple Nurses’ Union fight in the broader global economy and gave numerous examples of the impact of labor movement victories on the quality of life and labor standards for all people even outside of organized industries. Kate Harkin from the Student Labor Action Project encouraged students to hold Temple University President Ann Weaver Hart responsible for the bad faith bargaining that PASNAP articulated. She also joined with other student leaders to express the importance of joining the coalition of support for the Temple Nurses. Two Temple nursing students who were in attendance shared that they were encouraged by the community support as well as inspired by the strength and relevance of politicized healthcare providers.

As the event came to a close there was a strong sense of support and strength in the room. Lorenzo Glover reminded the Temple community members, “This is not about money. Temple University has tons of money. This is about power. They are trying to break the power of our union but we are not going to go away.”

courtesy of the Labor Blog | http://mediamobilizing.org/

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Six-Day Philly Transit Strike Ends After Pension Accord

November 9
3:49 pm

SEPTA workers on strike at the Frankford Transportation Center on November 3 in Philadelphia. (Photo by Jeff Fusco/Getty Images)

By Daniel Denvir

PHILADELPHIA, PA.—Trains, buses and trolleys are moving again here after transit workers ended a six-day strike late Sunday. Members of the Transit Workers Union (TWU) Local 234 are expected to ratify an agreement in the coming week, ending a dispute that had centered on pension issues.

The union demanded that the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) pay more money into the underfunded pension, but as of Monday morning it was unclear what pension concessions the union succeeded in winning from management.

Under the new contract, workers will increase their contribution to the pension fund to 3 percent of their salaries from the current two percent, and maximum pensions will be increased by $3,000, to $30,000 a year. The five-year contract also stipulates a 2.5-percent raise in the second year, and a 3-percent raise each year thereafter.

Media coverage of the strike has been marked by hostility to strikers—and a scarcity of reliable information.

On Friday night, it was widely reported that a deal would be reached within hours. When the deal fell apart, SEPTA management, Mayor Michael Nutter and Governor Ed Rendell accused the union of backing out of an agreement.

The union, however, contends that they had only agreed to a general framework with the governor and were surprised on Saturday morning when SEPTA delivered a contract containing a number of separate provisions.

"The governor was correct,” Local 234 spokesman Jamie Horowitz told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “There was essentially a handshake agreement on some of the big issues related to salary and pension funding. But the devil is in the details. And when the contract was sent over [Saturday], it included a couple things that were difficult for the union.”

Local 234 rejected SEPTA’s demand that the union agree to re-open healthcare provisions of the contract if the pending healthcare overhaul in Congress raised costs. Local 234 also demanded a forensic audit of the workers’ chronically underfunded pension fund. For reasons that are unclear, SEPTA resisted the audit even though the union offered to pay for it. It appears that no audit was included in the final contract, but the union is expected to continue pushing for an investigation.

Another mysterious aspect of the deal is a three-year dental plan that has been widely reported as one of the centerpieces of today’s agreement. No dental issues were previously reported as a point of contention and it is still unclear what role it played in the dispute.

Mike Zappone, who works at SEPTA's 69th St Terminal, says that there is widespread concern among union members that their pension money has been misappropriated and calls the dental issue a diversion. “On the news they’re talking about a dental plan? We haven’t heard about dental the whole time.”

In Pennsylvania, a state known for rampant corruption, there is abundant suspicion of malfeasance on the part of both Democrats and Republicans.

What is clear is that Local 234’s pension has long been underfunded, compared to managers’ pension fund. (The workers’ pension fund is currently 53-percent funded, compared to the managers’ 65 percent.)

Pension funds for public sector workers are in crisis across the country, due to the financial crisis on Wall Street and years of management pushback against defined-benefit packages. 401(k)s increasingly dominate the private sector, and public employees are fighting to maintain a secure retirement.

In Philadelphia, pensions are also the sticking point in stalled negotiations with public-sector workers.

The dominant narrative in the media, however, has framed SEPTA workers as a labor aristocracy insensitive to the recessionary troubles of other working-class Philadelphians. The Media Mobilizing Project, a media activist group that works with labor and community organizations throughout the city, put together a video highlighting the media bias.

Ronnie Polaneczky wrote one particularly incendiary column for The Philadelphia Daily News entitled “SEPTA strikers, how dare you!” She argued that public sector workers should not demand better conditions while those of other workers were deteriorating:

Unemployment is rampant in this region, and your union actually chose to strike rather than continue hammering out the details of your already excellent jobs? Jobs that we, the transit-dependent public, need you to perform so that our own financially teetering lives don't crash and burn?

The union argues that the raises keep wages on pace with inflation and will be partially offset by increased contributions to the pension plan.

Chris Satullo, news director at Philadelphia public radio station WHYY, also jumped into the fray. Noting that he grew up in a union household, he charged that public employee strikes undermine public support for unions—but neglected to suggest how else such a union could defend members’ rights.

Zappone says that the media consistently took management’s side in the dispute. “They backed the politicians,” he said. Zappone says that workers had no choice but to strike. Yet reporting on the strike’s impact overshadowed discussion of worker issues.

“How long are we supposed to work without a contract?” he asked. “SEPTA just ignored us.” (The Media Mobilizing Project has also put together a video highlighting worker voices.)

Negotiations between SEPTA and Local 234 have often led to conflict. SEPTA workers struck for seven days in 2005 over healthcare issues and 40 days in 1998 over management attempts to convert positions to part-time, change work rules and increase outsourcing. “I’ve been working 36 years for SEPTA,” Zappone says. “Every time we go for a contract, it’s a battle. They always want to take something from us.”

U.S. Rep. Bob Brady played a lead role in negotiating a settlement--especially, it seems, given the personal animosity between Mayor Nutter and the union leadership. Mayor Michael Nutter was kicked out of the negotiations on the strike’s second day. Local 234 accused Nutter of intransigence at the bargaining table.

According to Horowitz, Nutter was worried that a successful outcome for Local 234 would bolster the bargaining position of the four municipal unions that have been working without a contract since June 30.

Public employees are often the target of derision in Philadelphia media. But in a de-industrialized city like Philly, once the “workshop of the world,” public sector jobs are one of the few opportunities left for a poor person to make a decent living.

The union, however, has been roundly criticized for failing to reach out to transit users, and even Local 234 President Willie Brown concedes that the strike was poorly timed. But a Sunday demonstration called to protest the strike fizzled. According to The Inquirer, one protester showed up, greatly outnumbered by an overeager press corps.

Workers say that management is out of touch with the working-class public. “They don’t care about the people,” says Zappone. “A lot of these managers wouldn’t know an El from a trolley.”

Brown has called his decision to call the strike—at 3 a.m. on November 3, just after the World Series moved back to Yankee Stadium in New York—the way he did a mistake. Zappone agrees, saying, “We messed up the first day.” The misstep gave SEPTA an initial advantage in directing public anger against the union.

“[Brown] has publicly said that it was a mistake to go out at 3 a.m. without giving public advance notice,” says Horowitz. “And frankly, we probably could have put a lot of pressure on the employer if we said, ‘Hey, the clocks ticking. The train won’t run if there’s not movement on these issues.’”

But he says that the union recovered their footing. “The primary issue is pensions. And I think we did succeed in getting that across to the public.”

“This article is reprinted from In These Times magazine, © 2009, and is available at www.inthesetimes.com.”

Sunday, November 8, 2009

How Dare You, Transit Striker!

by Tom Paine Cronin | Fri, 11/06/2009

The six-day transit walk-out in Philadelphia ended November 8 with an announcement of a five-year contract deal that would increase workers' pension contributions from 2 percent to 3 percent and lift the maximum pension from $27,000 to $30,000.

Hey, did you hear about the World Series fans that were nearly stranded in South Philadelphia due to a transit shutdown? Unless you knew better, you’d quickly gather, from the print and electronic coverage of the Philadelphia transportation workers strike, as well as the negotiations leading up to it, that Transit Workers (TWU) Local 234 and its president, Willie Brown, were greedy, arrogant thugs, delighted to inconvenience a helpless public so as to be able to award themselves bigger pensions and fatter paychecks at a time when the rest of the city’s citizens are unemployed or working like hell to keep the jobs they have.

Media coverage of striking workers is almost never sympathetic. In this case, though, the union-bashing—opinion masquerading as reportage—serves a double purpose. The point in Philadelphia is to whip up a backlash against the TWU that will translate into the kind of overwhelming public pressure that forces the union leadership into accepting an agreement that is less than satisfactory to its members.

That secured, the agreement becomes a club with which to pound other public unions into submission. Like many big cities, in Philadelphia contracts with public workers follow a pattern, and if the city’s leaders can push a weaker deal onto cowed transit workers, they’ll expect the same from AFSCME members and other city employees.

The pressure on the union is relentless. The Philadelphia Inquirer, for instance, describes Brown as “pugnacious,” and someone “with a temper.” The same article notes his resemblance to a bullet, “round on top and thick through the middle.” Couple that with TV news reporters’ daily descriptions of inconvenienced commuters “enduring” the strike, and you’ve got quite a propaganda campaign. Stories on striking drivers or mechanics, their struggles to endure? Forget about it.

Driving public transit vehicles is a high-stress job for, at best, an adequate wage. But no one—not the public, the union leadership or rank-and-file members—wants a transit strike. Working people’s lives are thrown into disarray, and drivers and mechanics go without a paycheck. Typically, the media hype the “11 percent” wage increase demanded by TWU, only later qualifying that that increase is spread out over a five-year contract with no one annual increase exceeding the 2008 inflation rate of 3.8 percent.

SEPTA, the Philadelphia transit authority, has a practice of underfunding the union’s pension—the chief point of dispute. SEPTA released numbers yesterday showing that the transit workers’ pension fund is only 53 percent funded, while the managers’ fund stands at 65 percent of obligations. Neither has ever been fully funded, but managers historically have enjoyed a substantially healthier fund.

Enter two would-be saviors in the form of Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, Democrats who share the Republican belief that public interest is defined by what’s good for corporations. They have interceded in negotiations while issuing periodic swipes at the TWU leadership. No one with either a memory or the slightest political savvy would mistake these two as friends of labor. Rendell, as mayor, built his political career on the backs of Philadelphia’s unionized city employees, whom he repeatedly vilified as solely responsible for the city’s fiscal woes.

As for Nutter, elected almost completely without labor support, there’s more in this for him than satisfying an irresistible temptation to grandstand. TWU has been without a contract since March. And if at this point the transit union can be bullied into accepting a contract its members aren’t satisfied with, that’s very much in the mayor’s interest. Philadelphia city workers have been without a contract since June, and when they do come to the table the pressure to settle, for less, probably much less, will be that much greater.

Thomas Paine Cronin is the retired president of AFSCME District Council 47 in Philadelphia.


LABOR NOTES | www.labornotes.org
Labor Education and Research Project © 2005-2009.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Local Clergy, Encourage Guards To "Not Grow Weary Of Doing Good," By Voting To Form Union

A few days before the election, three dedicated clergy supporters of our campaign wrote (with the help of Emily Randle) an excellent Op-ed to security guards and to Philadelphians. The letter aimed to encourage guards to vote in favor of their own liberation and also to prompt Philadelphians to support them.

The Op-ed did not get picked up by either of the two daily papers and since the election was held on a Friday and a Saturday, there was no other outlets that made sense.

We did print it and circulate it among guards on site, but most of the public has never seen it. I post it below as an excellent example of how people of faith can support worker struggles...

The Philadelphia Museum of Art sits proudly atop its hill and watches over our city. To the people of Philadelphia and to people around the world, our museum evokes images of beauty, sophistication, community, and history. It is our hope, as clergy members and faith leaders, that in a few days this masterpiece of architecture will take on another symbolic attribute: justice.

On October 9 and 10, the security guards at the Museum will finally have the choice to vote to join the Philadelphia Security Officers Union. In 1992, these once unionized security jobs were privatized and turned into low-waged jobs. The guards have been organizing to form their own, independent, labor union for two and a half years, ever since they held a prayer vigil at Arch Street Methodist Church on April 4, 2007.

From that day on, they have been fighting tirelessly for their rights as workers. They are so close to being able to realize that dream, but they need our encouragement and support. Galatians declares: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

We must remind the guards, that the “proper time” is swiftly approaching, and we are here beside them. May they have faith in their cause, as we have faith in them. Above all, may they find the strength keep moving forward.

It is unsettling that the people who protect our city’s most valuable treasures earn less than poverty-level wages with minimal benefits. Until Labor Day of last year, these guards had no paid sick leave at all. Jobs with Justice stepped in and won them up to three paid days of sick leave.

Even still, to this day more than 60% of the 130 guards are considered ineligible to take advantage of this benefit. In other words, about 70-80 men and women are not allowed to take even one day of sick leave. The lack of paid sick leave is hardest on women, as they tend to be primary care givers. If they miss work, they might loose their job. Needless to say, they are often forced to make an unfair choice between two necessities.

This election is a chance for the guards to take the historic step of forming their own independent, worker-led, labor union. By voting for the union, these guards, our brothers and sisters and neighbors and friends, will be exercising the rights guaranteed to them by the National Labor Relations Act. And when they win, they will have a voice on the job and the opportunity to negotiate workplace improvements with their employer, AlliedBarton, for the first time in nearly two decades.

As Philadelphians, we should all expect workers to be treated well at our Museum. After all, according to their 2006 financial statements, we gave the Museum $5.9 million in taxes. Furthermore, every year the City of Philadelphia waves $171 million in rent, leases, and utilities.

The Gospel of Luke says, “to whom much is given, much shall be expected.” The Philadelphia Museum of Art is the face of our city. May it represent dignity, respect, and justice to all those within and without its walls.

To show the guards that you are beside them, attend our Vote “Yes” Prayer Vigil, Wednesday, October 7, at 5:15 pm on the west entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art or visit their web-site at www.phillyjwj.org.

Speak the truth in love. (Ephesians 4:15)

Bishop Dwayne Royster, Living Water United Church of Christ

Reverend Schaunel Steinnagel, Philadelphia Presbytery Hunger Action Enabler

Pastor Jay Broadnax, Mt. Pisgah AME

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Labor Notes: Philadelphia Museum Guards Finally Win Their Own Union

by Warren Davis
October 27, 2009

Seventeen years after security guards at Philadelphia’s Museum of Art lost their union in a Democratic mayor’s privatization spree, they beat long odds in early October and voted in an independent union.

The victory came after a committee of guards organized for years before seeking legal recognition for their union. The success of this unusual “non-majority” union was aided by a tireless Jobs with Justice chapter and the Student Labor Action Project (SLAP) at Temple University.

The 68 to 53 win followed weeks of non-stop activity: a spirited rally on the museum steps, a prayer vigil, and pickets by volunteers, who also infiltrated museum events to call attention to the drive.

Museum management claimed to be neutral but allowed the guards’ employer, AlliedBarton, to use textbook union-busting tactics.

Supervisors held mandatory meetings insisting the company’s contract would be cancelled if the union won and that any gains would be wiped out by union dues, and implying that supporters risked firing. The guards turned the meetings into grievance sessions, shouting down the supervisors.

In the final days, JwJ and SLAP activists blitzed workers leaving their shifts, the media responded with favorable accounts of the campaign, and supervisors were hounded out of their own mandatory meetings. On both election days volunteers waited outside every door of the museum to gauge how guards would vote, while others gave workers rides from all over the city to vote.

Nervous supporters and off-duty guards waited by the main worker entrance for the final tally, knowing it would be close.

When the count came down, champagne corks and text messages flew, as victorious guards climbed the museum’s steps, famous from the “Rocky” film, to celebrate.


Organizing among the 130 or so guards started about a decade before the vote. The Service Employees (SEIU) had initiated a campaign to unionize security guards nationwide.

The National Labor Relations Board will certify a union for security guards only if no other types of workers belong to the union, even in other workplaces or other states. But SEIU was hoping to pressure employers into voluntary recognition. The largest security firm, AlliedBarton, was controlled by Philadelphia billionaire Ron Perelman, a huge benefactor of the museum and the University of Pennsylvania.

In a surprise move in September 2006, SEIU agreed not to organize the estimated 10,000 AlliedBarton guards in Philadelphia, in exchange for access to guards elsewhere.

Despite SEIU’s pull-out, AlliedBarton guards at the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, and the museum continued to organize, creating a non-majority union called Philadelphia Security Officers Union.

PSOU members agitated with fellow members despite their lack of legal recognition, going up against a behemoth employer. “They are battling with a Goliath of the security industry,” said Bishop Dwayne Royster, a longtime supporter.

A joint campaign with Philly JwJ called Philadelphia Officers and Workers Rising (POWR) culminated in 2008, winning one day’s sick leave per year of service, up to three.

Museum guards, however, still weathered daily abuse from supervisors while making $19,000 a year before taxes—without paid leave or affordable health care.

Cecilia Lynch, a guard with AlliedBarton for 10 years, began to ask why they shouldn’t demand more, and why they shouldn’t form their own union.

JwJ organizer Eduardo Soriano-Castillo began to help the guards self-organize on Labor Day 2008. A committee formed and began signing up supporters on union cards, with difficulty.

“When workers are this poor and distressed, basic things like phone numbers and addresses can change anytime,” he said. “And with workers repeatedly moved to different sites, our job is even harder.”


Part of the strategy was to fight for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, which would allow the PSOU to be instantly certified when a majority of guards signed up. By this Labor Day it was evident that a legislative solution would not arrive quickly enough.

The committee voted unanimously to file with the NLRB for recognition despite the odds. Members updated cards and reassessed their strength, devising literature to inoculate guards against union-bashing and recruiting help from a law firm, along with dozens of community supporters from labor, faith, and student groups.

The Museum of Art relies on tourist traffic, patrons, and city cash, buildings, and land. Philadelphia JwJ director Fabricio Rodriguez thought pressure from museum members and press coverage could ensure the museum’s neutrality and in turn marginalize AlliedBarton.

Critically, local organizers Daniel Duffy and Dorian Lam signed up. Both unpaid volunteers, Duffy had just left Change to Win, while Lam joined from SEIU1199 Healthcare Pennsylvania. The United Electrical Workers donated the services of organizer Omar El-Malah to manage the final push.

House visits and on-the-job chats helped convince the guards they could win. Community support intensified, politicians announced their backing, and guards could see public attention was focused on them.

Now, after the victory, activist guards like POWR chair Thomas Robinson are thinking the strategy might work elsewhere. “I won’t be satisfied until the entire security industry is unionized,” he said.

After catching a collective breath, museum officer Jennifer Collazo says the core committee knows it will be a challenge to negotiate a contract and structure its leadership without big union support.

“JwJ has been crucial to this victory and will be indispensable going forward,” she said. “We know that with their help we can make our own independent union inclusive and democratic.”

Warren Davis is solidarity co-chair for Philadelphia JwJ.


LABOR NOTES | www.labornotes.org
Labor Education and Research Project © 2005-2009.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Museum Guards Get Their Union

From the Philadelphia Weekly web-site

In a secret ballot election over the weekend, security guards at the Philadelphia Museum of Art voted 68-53 to join the Philadelphia Security Officers Union (PSOU), capping a two-year unionization fight.

Art museum guards approve unionization

From the Inquirer web site...

AlliedBarton security officers who work at the Philadelphia Museum of Art voted in favor of a union, 68 to 55, in an election held Friday and Saturday at the museum, organizers reported this morning.


Workers Regain Collective Bargaining Rights After 17 Years

The two year effort to form an independent labor union for the AlliedBarton security guards at the world famous Philadelphia Museum of Art finally resulted in a victory for the union this weekend. The formerly unionized guards lost their union in 1992 when the jobs were privatized by then Mayor Ed Rendell.

“It is hard for any group of workers to join a union,” says Cecelia Lynch, museum guard and union activist.

“But we knew that it was the only hope that we had to fix the problems that we faced on the job.” Further states Lynch.

It is rare and difficult for a group of workers to form their own union.

The newly formed Philadelphia Security Officers Union (PSOU) was created by guards from around the city and by the community organization Jobs with Justice over a two year period.

“We hope that AlliedBarton will now work with us to agree on a fair contract in a reasonable amount of time.” Says Fabricio Rodriguez, Executive Director of Jobs with Justice.

The union provides some hope to a growing segment of Philadelphia’s workforce, private security guards, which currently lack union representation and have few opportunities to join a union. There are an estimated 10,000 private security guard in the Philadelphia region.

Security guards are prevented from joining most labor unions due to the Section 9 (B) 3 of the National Labor Relations Act.

This clause of the National Labor Relations Act states that security guards must join “security guard only unions,” of which there are few.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Museum Guards Get Support For Organizing

From today's Inquirer by Stephen Salisbury

Security guards seeking to form a union at the Philadelphia Museum of Art have received some outside support from area political figures just days before a vote on the union is scheduled.

The 130 guards are employees of AlliedBarton, a Conshohocken security firm. In addition to providing about 80 percent of the museum's guards, AlliedBarton supplies many large local institutions with much of their manned security.

The Art Museum guards are scheduled to vote tomorrow and Saturday on whether to recognize the Philadelphia Security Officers Union, an independent group, as their collective bargaining unit.

In letters delivered this week, Democratic U.S. Rep. Bob Brady wrote each guard to "express my support as a fellow Philadelphian [and] as a lifelong union member."

Brady reminded workers that they have a right to form a union under the National Labor Relations Act.

"Hundreds of Philadelphians have been writing letters and making phone calls to the museum asking them to hear you," Brady continued. "I know that the museum has forwarded all these letters to AlliedBarton. So, your neighbors' voices are being heard."

...More here: http://www.philly.com/inquirer/local/pa/20091008_Art_Museum_guards_get_support_for_unionizing.html

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Prayer Vigil For Guards Today at 5

Ministers from three local congregations will gather with security guards and activists at 5:15 pm, Wednesday, October 7, at the West Entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, at the foot of the world famous statue by Jacob Epstein called “Social Consciousness.”

The gathering will be a short prayer vigil to help motivate guards to vote to form their own Philadelphia Security Officers Union at an election to be held in the museum on Friday and Saturday.

The prayer vigil will feature a brief speech by Patrick Eiding, the President of the AFL-CIO Central Labor Council, and prayer offerings by Bishop Dwayne Royster of Living Water United Church of Christ in North Philadelphia and Reverend Jay Broadnax of Mt Pisgah AME in West Philadelphia.

According to Juanita Love, a security officer, “It is scary for guards to walk into that voting booth with your employer sitting there. There have been many threats against voting for the union. We think that the support of our churches will go a long way to giving us the strength and courage that we will need to vote 'yes' for the union and to solve our issues.”

The guards decided to form their own union after they could not find any established unions to help them, and after appeals for wage and benefit improvements failed to prompt their employer, AlliedBarton, or the host client, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, to make changes.

Bishop Dwayne Royster has observed: “Galatians tells us: 'Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.'

"We must remind the guards," he continued, "that the 'proper time' is this upcoming Friday and Saturday. They should not be afraid to vote for their union.”

Fabricio Rodriguez, executive director of Jobs with Justice, a community group that is involved in the union effort, has said: “We know that an overwhelming number of the guards want to be a part of this union. Seventy per cent of the officers have told us they support it. Still, many people might be too afraid to vote.”

Friday, October 2, 2009

Historic PSOU election one week away!

"AlliedBarton is telling guards that they aren't against unions in general. They have contracts with unions like SEIU. They say that they are just against the PSOU. Sorry, AlliedBarton. You don't get to pick our union. We do. We are the PSOU!" Donald Lindsay, museum guard

Next week the security guards at the Philadelphia Museum of Art will have the historic chance to form their own, independent, labor union. We are in the final stretch and we can win, but we need to give our volunteer organizers every chance to talk with security guards that have not made up their minds. Help us organize! It is more important now than ever before!

Donate now to get our organizers into the museum and in the community to win the October 9th, 10th election and a good contract. Click here to donate:

The Philadelphia Security Officers Union(PSOU) is dedicated to correcting the injustice that has prevailed at the museum since the security guard jobs were privatized by the city government in 1992.

The PSOU is fighting for family-sustaining wages, affordable quality health care, paid sick leave that doesn't unfairly discriminate against women, better training, fair career opportunities for all guards and not just the favorites of the bosses and respect on the job. The changes that they are fighting for will not cost the museum any money. That's right, the guards will negotiate these improvements from AlliedBarton's $2 million profit!

Thier employer, AlliedBarton is doing every thing in their power to prevent the workers from finally having a voice.

We need your help now to make sure that we can get 100 PSOU and Jobs with Justice security guards into the museum to help organize security guards. You can help by donating the ticket price of museum admission to a JwJ organizer now! Click here: https://secure.ga3.org/08/PhillyDonate

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Historic Museum Election on October 9 and 10!

Security guard cheering on the Welcoming Change Party

For two years, guards at the Philadelphia Museum of Art have tried to win dignity for themselves and their families. But, they've been ignored.

Along with guards, thousands of JwJ supporters have let museum leaders and the employer, AlliedBarton, know that wages that fall below the Federal Poverty Guidelines, bad and expensive health care and inadequate training are not good enough for the men and women who protect our city's most priceless cultural treasures.

Have they heard us? No. We too have been ignored.

But not anymore. We're going to put 100 volunteer organizers into the museum to let the guards know they have the power to never be ignored again. Can you donate now to help Jobs with Justice get these organizers in the door? Click here: https://secure.ga3.org/08/PhillyDonate

On October 9th and 10th, the National Labor Relations Board will supervise an election to certify that the security guards at the museum have come together to form their own union!

The employer, AlliedBarton, is using fear and intimidatation to keep them from forming their own organization. This is the company that cancelled their expected $.25 raise that the guards earned, fair and square.

The next three weeks are critical to winning the union election. In order to overcome the AlliedBarton/ Philadelphia Museum of Art intimidation campaign, we will need to get our volunteer organizers into the museum every day to talk with the guards and tell them why it is their right to form a union. Donate now to get them in the door so that our organizers can help our museum guards win this historic campaign!


You can help us Welcome Change at the PMA by donating today!

In solidarity,

Fabricio Rodriguez

Fabricio Rodriguez, Executive Director JwJ

P.S. You can sign-up to be a supporter yourself! On Friday, September 25th, join us for UNION NIGHT AT ART AFTER FIVE! RSVP with Fabricio by calling 215-732-8318

P.P.S. To make matters worse, direct museum employees are joining the anti-union campaign. That's right. Museum employees are participating in union-busting meetings that are being held inside the museum. (sign our petition urging City Hall to prevent your tax dollars from being used in the anti-union campaign here)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Will Your Tax Money Be Used To Intimidate Workers

One of the main road blocks that workers face to exercising their rights on the job is the powerful and frightening coercive power that an employer has over an employee.

Imagine an election in which the party in power could force you to attend mandatory meetings to tell you why you should not vote for the other party. Imagine the party in power could also make you lose your job, and harass your neighbors who support the opposition party. The party in power could bring in professional campaigners (lawyers and anti-union consultants) to help them win their election. They were guaranteed access to the voters every day leading up to the election -- but the opposition party could only campaign in secret and when their volunteers happened to catch other voters at home. Let’s say that the party in power could also sit you down, all by yourself, and interrogate you to see how you intended on voting?

Sounds pretty intimidating, huh? Well these are the troubles that the security guards at the Philadelphia Museum of Art are bound to face in the next thirty days as they try to form a union.

We don’t know if AlliedBarton, the contractor who employs them, is going to fight the workers as they attempt to exercise their legally protected right to form a collective group to negotiate work place improvements. It is also unclear how much anti-union scare tactics and union-busting Mr. Timothy Rub, the new museum director, will allow in his house. However, a posting that appeared in the AlliedBarton guards’ break room this Sunday is probably not a good sign of things to come.

click here for a closer look http://www.divshare.com/download/8503330-a9b

Mandatory meetings are generally the first stage of a fear campaign against workers who are trying to get organized. The Philadelphia Museum of Art is hosting this meeting in the on-site auditorium. Security guards who are union supporters will be able to tell us about the nature of the meeting on Wednesday night. We are hoping that it is not an anti-union meeting. Let’s hope that the Philadelphia Museum of Art, a publicly supported institution, is not allowing this type of behavior on museum property.

So far, the museum has feigned a position of non-engagement.

"The museum respects the freedom of workers to organize in accordance with labor laws and to vote in an NLRB-conducted election," said Norman Keyes, museum spokesperson.

It should be clear to tax payers what this means: the museum is anti-union.

Why? Simple. Jobs with Justice has gone to great lengths to educate museum leaders over the last two years about the problems with AlliedBarton. Let’s look at the past to see what we can expect next.

In 2006, AlliedBarton illegally “suspended” five security guard activists at the University of Pennsylvania. These five guards were suspended for giving a petition, during their off-work hours, to university President, Amy Gutmann. The guards weren’t offered positions on other contracts. What is the difference between being fired and being suspended indefinitely? Thankfully, we did not have to wait for that mystery to be solved. After student activists rallied and protested, embarrassed university leaders made the company restore them to their positions. (Thomas Robinson, a leader of the Philadelphia Security Officers Union, was one of the five guards suspended.)

In 2007, George Darrah, one of our long time security guard leaders, suddenly and without explanation had his hours drastically reduced and was removed from his work station at UPenn after we released the video, “Sitting Behind the Desk”. When George had his hours cut, Robert Curley of O'Donoghue and O'Donoghue LLP volunteered to file an Unfair Labor Practice charge on his behalf. Shortly after Robert filed the paper work, George’s hours were restored. (NLRB case #4ca34100)

AlliedBarton has established itself as a company that will do everything in its power, including illegal intimidation and retribution against union activists, to stop workers from exercising their right to organize, to associate and to speak freely about changing their working conditions. AlliedBarton’s position is an anti-union position. Given that, Timothy Rub’s “respect” for the “freedom” of these workers, but not speaking out against Allied’s intimidation campaign, is equivalent to lining up against the workers. The museum’s position is an anti-union position.

You don’t have to allow your tax money to be used to intimidate workers or to defeat the efforts of the security guards to form their own, grassroots, independent, labor union.

This Thursday, the Philadelphia City Council will reconvene. Please call and ask your city council representative to speak up. The Philadelphia Security Officers Union needs your help and the help of our civic leaders to ensure that our tax money will not be used at the museum to violate the rights of the workers.

Joining and forming a union is the right of all workers in this country, and the guards should not face an anti-union campaign paid for with our tax dollars. Mr. Rub and AlliedBarton’s leaders (security officers report that Timothy Rub and AlliedBarton leaders were seen having a meeting at the museum last week) need to publicly declare that they will be neutral to the guard’s efforts and that no intimidation or union busting will occur again!

Has the Anti-Union Campaign at the Philadelphia Museum Begun?

This was email to Eduardo earlier today...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Welcoming Change Party Rocks Philadelphia Museum

Supporters Welcomed Change for Security Guards Union at the Philadelphia Museum of Art on Labor Day Weekend: Guards Gear Up For Union Recognition

Donate Now! To Make Sure JwJ Can Help These Workers Form An Independent Union!!!

Art lovers were treated to a uninvited, mobile concert by the Rude Mechanical Orchestra on Sunday at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA). The concert was a party of a “Welcoming Party” that was organized by Jobs with Justice and the newly formed, Philadelphia Security Officers Union (PSOU). The PSOU filed a petition for union recognition with the National Labor Relations Board on September 3, 2009. (read about it in The Inquirer)

The party began at the bottom of the museum steps when Jobs with Justice activists started chanting “Ho ho, ha ha, we’re welcoming changer at the PMA, Ha ha ho ho poverty wages have got to go!” The Rude Mechanical Orchestra began banging on their drums, horns began blaring and people with party hats, horns and favors were dancing in the streets.

More than 130 supporters followed the marching band up the steps and around the south side of the museum. On the back side of the museum Lee Gee was playing music from the top of the steps overlooking Fairmount Park.

In addition to the Rude Mechanical Orchestra, the party featured, Thomas Robinson, Kathy Black, Reverend Schaunel Steinnagel, Juanita Love, Reverend Jay Broadnax, Bishop Dwayne Royster and Fabricio Rodriguez. Their messages of support were mixed with requests to Mr. Timothy Rub to declare that there will be no union busting on museum property.

The Living Water UCC Church in north Philadelphia also participated by offering prayer and by taking up a special offering during church services that day. The “Welcoming Change” fundraising campaign encourages supporters to donate pocket change to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, via Jobs with Justice. The funds which will be earmarked to give the security guards raises will be delivered to Timothy Rub when he takes over as the head of the museum. The fundraising campaign is in response to the recent role back of the expected $.25 per hour raises. The Living Water congregation raised $30 or raises for 7 security guards for one day of work.

The PSOU expects to hold an election sometime in late October. They can’t do it without your help though. You can help our by taking action from our web-site.
We also need your donations today!

Watch the Welcoming Change video and pass it on! http://www.divshare.com/download/8281947-f76

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Museum Guards File For Union Election

PSOU Hopes Timothy Rub Will Welcome The Union As They Prepare To Welcome His Arrival

For almost two years now, security guards at the Philadelphia Museum of Art have attempted to discuss their working conditions with Museum leaders. Having received no response to their multiple requests for dialogue, on Wednesday, September 3, the Philadelphia Security Officers Union (PSOU) will file for union recognition with the National Labor Relations Board.

“We are excited about this new development and take this big step forward with confidence,” explains Eduardo Soriano-Castillo, Lead Organizer with Philadelphia Jobs with Justice (JwJ), a community organization that has been working alongside the guards since 2007. Soriano-Castillo added that both PSOU and JwJ had hoped for the opportunity to speak with either the current administration at the Museum or incoming Director Timothy Rub prior to filing. “But we want them to understand that the guards are standing up for their rights as workers today.”

Timothy Rub will begin his tenure at the Philadelphia Museum of Art this September, and the guards are eagerly awaiting his arrival. In fact, PSOU and JwJ will be holding a welcoming party for him this Sunday, September 6 at 2 pm at the Museum. The band Rude Mechanical Orchestra will be leading the party, which is open to the public, as well as Museum staff. For more information on upcoming events and further details about JwJ and PSOU, please visit www.phillyjwj.org.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Philadelphians Beg For Change at the Museum of Art

Volunteers Panhandle To Help Timothy Rub Pay Its Security Bill

On Sunday, volunteers from Jobs with Justice stood outside the doors of the Philadelphia Museum of Art with paper cups and asked visitors for change, both figuratively and literally.

“Earlier this year, the Museum announced that it would not give its security guards their annual 25 cent per hour raise,” explained Fabricio Rodriguez, Executive Director of Philadelphia Jobs with Justice, “so we’re out here today asking for change. We are trying to earn their raise back for them – one quarter at a time.”

Nickels and dimes aside, there is a deeper change being sought by Jobs with Justice (JwJ) and the Philadelphia Security Officers Union (PSOU), an organized group of security guards at the Museum that seek a union. JwJ and PSOU have been asking for a meeting with Museum leaders since 2007, to no avail. They are hopeful that the incoming Director of the Museum, Timothy Rub, will be more receptive to their requests for discussion.

“We know that a multi-million dollar budget can only be stretched so far,” smiled Eduardo Soriano-Castillo, Lead Organizer with JwJ. “Maybe if Mr. Rub sees that Philadelphia is willing to pitch in to assure the guards the minimum of what they deserve, he will talk to us.”

Rodriguez added that he believes in Philadelphia and the value our city puts on social justice. “If Timothy Rub takes a stand in favor of family-sustaining wages, I am convinced that Philadelphians, as a gesture of support, will be even more willing to donate to the Museum.”

In one hour JwJ raised $106.83 in pocket change – more that it would cost to give twenty five guards their entire raise for one day. Based on that figure alone, JwJ is calling on the Museum to try harder to find the funds to support their guards. “And if they are having trouble figuring out how to raise the money,” said Rodriguez, glancing at his fellow volunteers, “we’ll be happy to show them how we did it.”

Sunday’s theatrical display by activists is one of numerous actions that have been taken on behalf of the security guards’ fight – and it will not be the last. JwJ and PSOU recently released a documentary, entitled “Welcoming Change.” Addressed to Timothy Rub and available to the public online, the film features PSOU guards telling their stories and asking to simply be heard.

In addition, JwJ and PSOU are planning a welcoming party for Timothy Rub this Sunday, September 6 at 2 pm at the Museum.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Guards Ask Timothy Rub For Dialogue Through Video Message

Video Message To Incoming Museum Director Highlights Worker Hardships And Hopes

Philadelphia, PA- A video being premiered August 26 is part documentary and partly a direct message to Timothy Rub, the incoming director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It also addresses the national debate about the Employee Free Choice Act.

The video entitled, “Welcoming Change: A Message To Timothy Rub”, features the voice of four security guards who are a part of a campaign to win workplace reforms at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The interviews in "Welcoming Change" were filmed in parts of Southwest, North and West Philadelphia. “They are stories of hope," says David Randle, the director. " I was impressed by that even though they earn such low wages.”

David Randle made his film as a member of the Media Mobilizing Project, a community group that makes films about community activism.

Worker and activist Donald Lindsay, talking about what we would like to say to the incoming director, says “We would get to talking about what his goals are and what our goals are.”

"Welcoming Change" also has its sad moments. Moments that remind the viewer that poverty exists even among the opulence of the museum.

“It’s a sin in this country, that you work 40 hours a week and can never get your head above water. You should be able to pay your bills…without borrowing from Peter to pay Paul,” says Juanita Love in one of the video's sadder moments.

The security guards are trying to improve their wages from the current $10.03 per hour (or less for non-AlliedBarton guards) to $13.48 per hour.

The video ends with a call to support the guards at the museum and the Employee Free Choice Act, a piece of legislation that would allow these guards at the museum to automatically be recognized as a union after a majority of workers had signed up for that option.

The documentary "Welcoming Change" will be screened at the Media Mobilizing Project office, 4205 Chestnut St, on August 26 at 6:30 pm, or can be watched online at www.phillyjwj.org starting August 26 at 9:00 am.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Private Security: Low-paying, Dead-End and Deadly

According to the US Department of Labor, being a security guard is the tenth most deadly job in the nation.

As a recent example of this, Stephen Tyrone, a member of the Security, Police and Fire Professionals of America, was gunned down at his job in the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC, in July.

"A soft-spoken, gentle giant," said Milton Talley, a former employee of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, where Johns was killed yesterday in the line of duty -- shot, authorities said, by an avowed white supremacist who entered the museum with a rifle

The security guards at the Philadelphia Museum of Art put their lives on the line every day as they serve as the first line of defense against senseless violence that could break out at a big, public facility like the museum. They will be the first to respond to theft (art theft is an increasing phenomena). Despite this enormous risk, the guards at the Philadelphia Museum of Art make less that $20,000 per year.

To add insult to injury, we were informed that the expected $.25 per hour raise ($2 increase for a day's work, about the price of a cup of coffee) will not be given. What would Sally Struthers think?

Let's hope that Mr. Timothy Rub considers these facts before he takes over the helm at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. A dangerous job like this should pay family sustaining wages. The museum should recognize the Philadelphia Security Officers Union so that the workers can play a direct role in planning for their future and that of their families should something like what took place in Washington DC, God forbid, take place here.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Badges, Budgets and Betrayals II

Find out about the earliest days of labor unions and private security guards, the Pinkertons and a war in Homestead, PA.

Calendar of events

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


13 Minute Film Tells Timothy Rub Message From Guards

Welcoming Change Premier
August 26, 2009, 6:30 pm
Media Mobilizing Project
4205 Chestnut Street

The security officers at the Philadelphia Museum of Art have been holding out hope for improved working conditions for a long time. Thus far, they have tried to communicate via the standard methods of written letters and phone calls, yet their requests remain unanswered. Finding themselves without much more recourse, they decided to translate their message into a language sympathetic to the ears of the museum leaders: art.

The security guards have come together to create a thirteen minute video addressed to Timothy Rub, the incoming Director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA), in the hopes that their voices, in this way, will finally break the silence.

On August 26, the film entitled "Welcoming Change: A Message To Timothy Rub," directed by David Stuart Randle from local media organization Media Mobilizing Project, will be released on the internet and will premier on screen at 4205 Chestnut St at 6:30 pm. The film will also be mailed to 100 local churches.

The objective of releasing this film is to prompt a network of PMA members and Philadelphia taxpayers to contact Mr. Rub and express their support for the guards' ambition to be recognized as a union. The guards have started their own independent labor union, the Philadelphia Security Officers Union (PSOU), and have succeeded in signing up a majority of their co-workers on union recognition cards.

Their campaign has become part of the national dialogue in support of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) that is currently being debated by Congress. At present, if a majority of workers sign union recognition cards, it is still the employer's decision whether or not to recognize the workers' union. Under EFCA, if a majority of the workers have signed union recognition cards, it would be their choice to hold an election regarding the formation of a union.

"We hope that Mr. Rub will recognize our union and work with us to improve the low wages that we earn by granting us the sustainable wages we deserve," says Jennifer Collazo, a security guard and union organizer at the PMA.

The guards decided to form PSOU after reaching out to several labor unions to no avail. Unions are restricted by a little-known provision in the National Labor Relations Act, Section 9(b)3, which bars unions that organize workers other than security guards from calling for an election supervised by the National Labor Relations Board.

Union representatives point to a recent history of unfair labor practices by their employer, AlliedBarton, in an attempt to show why they need the contract holder (i.e. the PMA) to demand that no illegal activity take place during their organizing drive. They also want their employer to recognize the PSOU as the collective bargaining unit at their current majority.

The security guards earn between $15,000 and $20,000 per year. This figure is not only below the Federal Poverty Guidelines for a family of four ($22,050), it is possibly in violation of the city-mandated Prevailing Wage, a wage established for service workers employed at "city-related" properties.

"The law states that any institution that receives more than $100,000 from the city is bound by this law and has to pay a family-sustaining wage of $13.48 per hour for guards. The Museum received $4.92 million from the City of Philadelphia in 2008. They also are on city land and in a city building worth $171 million," says Fabricio M. Rodriguez, the Executive Director of Philadelphia Jobs with Justice, a local community group that has been working with the guards since 2005.

The film "Welcoming Change" will premier to the public at the headquarters of the Media Mobilizing Project, at 4205 Chestnut St. at 6:30 pm on Wednesday, August 26, 2009. The film will be followed by a roundtable discussion with security officers from the museum.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


When the security officers at the Philadelphia Museum of Art rallied against a recent roll back of their $.25 per hour raise, they could have never guessed that there modest cause could become an example of a nation-wide debate over the Employee Free Choice Act.

That is just what happened after an article by Sarah Jaffe appeared this week on the web-site of The Nation Magazine.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is a recognizable icon even to those who have never set foot in the city. Immortalized in the movie Rocky, when a sweatsuit-clad Sylvester Stallone bounded up the stairs while training for his big fight, the museum became a symbol of the working-class tenacity that Philadelphians are known for.

On September 6, those steps will host a different kind of blue-collar battle: the museum security guards will be holding a rally in support of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) and their right to form a union.

The security guards began organizing in 2007 in hopes of joining a labor union with the help of local workers' rights group, Jobs with Justice. After they began their organizing drive the activists were soon surprised to find out that they had few options in the union world.

“Guards have special circumstances under the law. There are almost no unions that can organize security officers because of Section 9B3 of the National Labor Relation Act,” says Fabricio Rodriguez of Jobs with Justice.

As the article points out, this section of the National Labor Relations Act, the national law which governs how unions are formed, prevents security guards from join unions that have any other type of workers besides security guards through a Labor Board supervised election.

After meeting with many different unions, the security officers found no groups that could take them and no security guard-only unions who were willing to help. Last year, they decided to try their hand at forming their own union. A group of security officers from the museum began signing up their co-workers on Philadelphia Security Officers Union sign-up cards. They have signed up a majority of the employees that work for the main security firm on the property, AlliedBarton. The workers now want majority sign-up union recognition. This is one provision that labor unions want included in the hotly debated Employee Free Choice Act that is expected to come up for a vote in Congress later this year.

“We knew that this would not be enough, especially if the company began using illegal tactics again,” says Thomas Robinson a long time activist and AllieBarton security guard.

Thomas and four of his colleagues were illegally suspended in 2006 for organizing at the University of Pennsylvania. Three of the five workers were returned to their posts at the university after students protested their suspensions.

“It is hard enough if you have an established labor union supporting you. We simply want to exercise our rights, but we know that without labor lawyers to make sure that our rights aren’t violated, it will be very hard,” says Jennifer Collazo, a security guard who is one of the organizers at the museum.

The union says that they will continue to try to improve benefits and wages, which only go as high as $18,000 for the average guard, even if winning a union against a big corporation seems out of reach. They hope that the arrival of the new director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Timothy Rub, will prompt work place improvements.

“This is why we need to pass the Employee Free Choice Act. Labor law reform isn’t about protecting so-called “special interests,” it’s about protecting you and your neighbors, normal working folks,” says Juanita Love, a security officer for another security company at the museum.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Hour 6 of postproduction of documentary #philamuseum #welcomingchange almost time to go home

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Badges, Budgets and Betrayals 1

March for the Employee Free Choice Act September 6, 2009

Join the Philadelphia Security Officers Union and Jobs with Justice as they hold a “welcoming party” for incoming museum CEO, Timothy Rub. These Workers will advocate for the Employee Free Choice Act!

• Security Guards at the museum earn less than $20,000 per year, below the federal poverty line.
• The Philadelphia Security Officers Union supports the Employee Free Choice Act.
• We have signed up a majority of the security officers at the Philadelphia Museum on union representation cards.
• If the Employee Free Choice Act was law right now, we would already be a union.

What: March with the Philadelphia Security Officers Union in support of card check and the Employee Free Choice Act

Where: The Philadelphia Museum of Art, front “Rocky” steps

When: 2:00 pm—3:30 pm, come early and take advantage of the free day at the museum

MUSIC: This event will feature NYC’s Rude Mechanical Orchestra.

Also join us for the premier of the documentary about our campaign on August 26, 2009 at 6:30 pm at the Media Mobilizing Project office, located at 4205 W. Chestnut Ave

Friday, July 31, 2009

Rendell fired us Alliedbarton rehired us

The current administration at the Philadelphia Museum of Art has been indifferent to our calls for justice (except for granting our folks up to three days of paid sick leave in Sept 2008). I've dealt with a lot of institutions in our city who are short changing workers and I can say, without a doubt, that all of them have acted more reasonably. However, if you look back at the history of the guards at the museum, it becomes more clear where they have gotten this attitude from.

Our city's last major budget crisis occurred in 1992. Mayor Ed Rendell had just won his election and started his first days in office with a city that was, much like today, in deep fiscal trouble.

He was fighting to take away a lot from the city's municipal workers. The unions fought hard and even went on strike. Mayor Rendell was able to get many of the concessions that he wanted. The unions lost much and to this day, the city union leaders vow, "never again."

Perhaps the cruelest cut, though, was the privatization of hundreds of jobs, including the security officers at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. These officers were represented by AFSCME Local 1637, District Council 33. They made as much as $14/hour and had top-shelf benefits. Mayor Rendell turned those family sustaining jobs into poverty wage jobs over night.

In the first year we privatized 15 different functions, and we have 15 more on the drawing board now. With those 30 we will save about $34 million a year. Privatization has not proven nearly as hard to do as everyone expected. And it is more than just a money-saver: in almost every case we are delivering a better product to the citizens of Philadelphia.

Today, more than 15 years later, their wages still haven't caught up to previous levels. The most the guards can make is $10.03 per hour. This puts many of the guards below the federal poverty line for a family of four, earning less than $20,000 per year. With the backing of the then Mayor Ed Rendell, is it any wonder that the museum feels that they can disregard the well-being of these workers with impunity?

Security Guard Unionism Ish!

Here's a reference from our campaigns past! About two years ago, we were contacted by Allied International Union. They sounded interested in affiliating the Philadelphia Security Officers Union and even came down to Philly and had a meeting with me and a labor lawyer friend of mine from Freedman and Lorry.

They were sternly (pun-ishable!) opposed to SEIU and were battling them in court in New York state over some shop raids. In fact, they were beating them. But, suddenly, as we were about to make an agreement with them, they quit returning our calls. I understand that Allied International Union was purchased by SEIU.

Anyway, here is a reference to Allied's less than noble past... (see page 43)

If the Employee Free Choice Act passes with the majority sign up clause, then security guards could form their own unions much easier. Workers would have a real choice, not just between union or non-union, but also to form their own independent union or an established, often unresponsive, existing union.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

In early July, a delegation of guards and community supporters tried to deliver a letter to Gail Harrity (interim CEO of Phila Museum) requesting a meeting. We arrived before 9 at the administration offices of the museum and requested that someone, a secretary, and intern, anyone, from Ms. Harrity's office come out and take our letter and assure us that it would be given to the President.

A security guard came out and told us that he had direct orders to not take our letter.

We came back, hoping to catch Ms Harrity on her way to work and to make sure that others that she worked with knew what we were trying to do. We showed up before 9 am on July 24.

We talked with a bunch of workers as they went in as well as a major donor who was leaving the building after a meeting with the fundraising department. Almost everyone was nice to us even though a couple of the "higher-ups" were scowling at us from inside the gated parking lot. Shortly after 9 am a captain of the AlliedBarton guards showed up and told us to leave and we did without incident.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Museum Admin Receives Gift of Doughnuts From Guards

Union Endows CEO With Doughnuts

Philadelphia, PA- Administrative workers at the Philadelphia Museum of Art will be met by cheerful union activists offering free doughnuts as they arrive to work tomorrow. The activists hope that their gesture will prompt the workers to help them get a meeting with interim museum CEO, Gail Harrity.

Since 2007, the activist group Jobs with Justice has been trying to get museum leaders to meet with the Philadelphia Security Officers Union, a local worker association.

"I have spoken on the phone with the head of Human Resources, the head of Contracting, and others," says Fabricio Rodriguez, Executive Director of Jobs with Justice. "They act like they want to help but it always ends in them saying that they will not meet with us."

Last week, the activist group, along with members of the union and local labor leaders, attempted to hand-deliver a meeting request letter, only to be turned away at the door.

There is hope that the free pastries and the hand bills will get someone close to the CEO to encourage her to finally fulfill requests for a meeting.

The security officers have two main objectives: to reverse the cancellation of their $.25 per hour annual raises, and to make plans to take their earnings up to family-sustaining levels.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Mr. Scarvo is wrong on EFCA

An article in yesterday's Scranton Times Tribune gives us the perspectives of Mr. Frank Scarvo, a manager for Keystone Automotive.

In Mr. Scarvo's opinion, the binding arbitration provision of the Employee Free Choice Act would harm employees. He also says that the current workplace regulatory agencies are sufficient. It is easy enough to discover with some research or, as many workers have found out through first hand experience, that this is untrue.

Mr. Scavo should know that there are many dirty tricks that employers use when they don't want to deal with the union that their employees worked hard to form and win. Most commonly, they draw out the collective bargaining process with excessive appeals. This unfair practice of forestalling process is hardly uncommon.

In fact, I came across a study on the American Rights at Work website conducted for the U.S Trade Deficit Review Commission. This 2000 study found that 32% of workers who have chosen to from or join a union remain without a union contract a year after having won their election.

Most of all, however, Mr Scavo gives too much credit to the current government regulatory agencies. Also in 2000, my father was refused the right to take lunch at the gold mine where we worked in Juneau, Alaska. He was fired - illegally - for the unspeakable act of taking his lunch in dignity. He used every legal remedy given to a worker with no income. Still, it took the Mine Safety and Health Administration nearly three years to recognize my father's right to take a lunch break in a clean and safe environment.

To deal with the indignities and abuses that innumerable workers face on a daily basis, the most effective means of self-empowerment is a union. The Employee Free Choice Act would give those workers who need change a reasonable option for remedy, a union of their choosing.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


Workers Wonder If Rub Will Heal Division

Philadelphia, PA – The Philadelphia Museum of Art is apparently not immune from the recession. Like other leading institutions of the arts, the museum has seen some of its income fall sharply. In February, management announced that in order to close an expected $1.7 million budget deficit the museum would need to lay off 15 staff, raise ticket prices by $2 to $6 each, and reduce “Free Sundays” to only once a month. The cruelest cut was announced months later, in June, when museum guards earning between $16,000 and $20,000 a year learned they would not receive their promised $0.25 an hour raise.

“I couldn’t believe it – they were taking our raise,” said a security guard with contractor Allied Barton. “Our raise is a drop in the bucket to the museum.”

He may be right. While some contributions are down, it appears that others are up. Way up. Besides a grant from PNC Bank, the museum is in line for a Federal Community Development block grant of $80 million from the Department of Housing and Urban Development for improvements to a loading dock area. When the City of Philadelphia cut $500,000 from its contribution to the museum, philanthropist and board chairman Gerry Lenfest pledged to match up to $25 million in donations. Meanwhile, the security officers who safeguard the museum’s treasures have yet to see their quarter an hour raise promised to them over a year ago, amounting to an average $520 so far for a full timer.

The security officers have long been organizing for union representation. They hope that by forming an independent Philadelphia Security Officers Union, they will be able to bargain for decent wages, paid sick days and basic health benefits.

“It’s not fair. We have big responsibilities,” says Jennifer, a union activist and a museum guard. “We take care of the collections and the patrons, but the museum can’t even give us our [small] raise.”

So far museum management has ignored the guards’ requests for a dialogue. The appointment of Timothy Rub as museum director beginning September raised the possibility of a new approach to the guards’ campaign. A recent delegation of security officers, along with labor, community and student leaders organized by Philadelphia Jobs with Justice, attempted to hand deliver a letter welcoming Mr. Rub and asking for a meeting. Local museum management declined to accept the letter, but apparently Mr. Rub’s staff were more accepting when Jobs with Justice brought a copy of the letter to his current office at the Cleveland Museum.

Union activists have reached out to the art museum’s new leader, hoping for a sign of a new professionalism from management. A decent first step would be for Mr. Rub to restore the lost wages.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


CEO Harrity Displays Similar Show As Last Year But There Is New Reason To Be Hopeful-

Philadelphia, PA- A delegation of security guards and supporters were turned away from the staff entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art without achieving their goal: delivering a letter to the office of CEO, Gail Harrity.

The delegation included security guards Cecelia Lynch, Juanita Love and Thomas Robinson and supporters; Paul Dannenfelser (President of AFSCME Local 2187), Lance Geren, Esq.(Freedman and Lorry), Fabricio Rodriguez and Eduardo Soriano (Jobs with Justice) and members from the Students for Democratic Society (Robin Markle and Jeff Rousset) and the Student Labor Action Project (Kate Harkins and Amanda Ahlesmeyer).

The small group arrived at the Perelman Annex of the museum at 8:50 a.m. and spoke with the AlliedBarton security guard at the front desk. They were quickly referred to the captain of daytime security.
The captain took the group’s request into Perelman Annex, but returned to announce that Ms. Gail Harrity had left for a meeting a few weeks prior. He offered to accept the letter on her behalf.
“We decided that it was not acceptable to leave the letter with the security captain since the letter concerned the company that he worked for. There were dozens and dozens of people working in the building. We figured that some one could take a minute and accept our letter,” stated Fabricio Rodriguez, Executive Director of Philadelphia Jobs with Justice.

The captain returned into the annex to speak with personnel from the office of Robin Procter, Director of Human Resources. He returned a few minutes later with new instructions from Procter’s office.

“I was ordered to not accept your letter and to tell you to set up an appointment,” said the captain.

The group, which has been requesting a meeting since December 2007, departed a few minutes later.

“We expected to be treated this way,” says Thomas Robinson, Chairman of the Philadelphia Security Officer’s Union.

“Since we expected to be ignored again, another group of Jobs with Justice activists in Cleveland had agreed to make an appearance at Timothy Rub’s office in Cleveland,” states Robinson.

Mr. Rub, the incoming director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and current CEO of the Cleveland Museum of art, oversees a unionized security work force at his institution and will take charge of the Philadelphia museum on September 1st.

At approximately the same time this morning, Debbie Kline and Elizabeth Pangrace of Cleveland Jobs with Justice met with Mr. Rub’s secretary, who assured the activists that the letter would be handed to him as soon as he got out of his meeting.

The Philadelphia activists are committed to reaching out to Mr. Rub, and are hopeful about the possibility of new labor relations at the Philadelphia Museum of Art upon his arrival.

New Museum CEO Rub Welcomed By Philadelphia Security Guards: Guard Union Requests Talks

Philadelphia, PA- A delegation of security guards from the Philadelphia Museum of Art and their supporters in Cleveland, Ohio and Philadelphia, PA plan to hand-deliver a letter to Timothy Rub the newly-named, incoming CEO of the Philadelphia Museum of Art asking for a dialogue about working conditions.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art named Mr. Rub the new director on June 30.

The Philadelphia Security Officer’s Union began its campaign to organize the security guards at the museum in 2007. The union was able to win paid sick-leave in September of 2008 and is now hoping that Rub will be more open to dialogue that his predecessors.

“We have been reaching out to museum leaders but they have never agreed to meet with us,” states Thomas Robinson, Chairman of the union.

Union members talk about many problems facing security officers at the museum: from unaffordable health care to the lack of training and low-wages, including a recent role back of the expected annual $.25/hour raises.

“I hope that Mr Rub is sympathetic to how unfair it feels to have your raise taken away,” States Jennifer Collazo a union member and guard at the museum.

“The most that we could have gotten with our raise was $520 per year. Mr Rub lost more than that last year” said Collazo, referring to media reports that Mr. Rub had to have his pay reduced by 15% last year from $400,000.

The Philadelphia Security Officer’s Union will be supported by local labor support group Jobs with Justice as well as by the Jobs with Justice affiliate in Cleveland, Ohio.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Party! Cure CVS legion drive At First Friday 6pm. RSVP now to stop CVS from poisoning inner city youth, women, puppies and elderly with expired baby food and to get free wine and into the after party. Call Fabricio 215-732-8318

Thursday, June 18, 2009

UFCW vs BUILDING TRADES on bill 2 let Giant build 6 new stores...#philadelphia #unions
N City Hall awaitng Joanna's SMS signal ...like Tehran! #Curecvs

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Monday, June 15, 2009

marchng w/ 2nd line band + ROC United in the Big Easy w/ @eduardo_soriano

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Eduardo + me are off 2 New Orleans 4 the ROC United conference

Thursday, June 11, 2009

EFCA: The Sermon

Sermon on the Employee Free Choice Act
By Bishop Dwayne Royster
Living Water United Church of Christ
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
June 7, 2009
Exodus 1:8-11A

Many have gathered this day to hear a word about the Employee Free Choice Act. This legislation that many are hoping to pass will have a dramatic effect on worker’s rights within this country; to organize unions to bargain with employers for better working conditions, wages, benefits, etc…

I have to admit this has been somewhat of a daunting task for me. As a Christian Minister I am always reminded that I need to ground my sermons in that which is foundational to my faith in this case the texts of the Church. Go with me briefly to the text and a story that I believe addresses God’s fundamental desire for workers to organize and have rights of self determination.
In Exodus 1:8-11a “8Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. 9He said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. 10Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” 11Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor.”
The people of Israel found themselves in a dilemma. During the days of Joseph and Jacob the founding nation of Israel found refuge in Egypt during a time of famine in all of the fertile crest (that is the middle east). Much could be said about Joseph’s story in Egypt but we will save that for another time.
Nevertheless, things went well for the Israelites in Egypt during the days of Joseph but sometime after Joseph died the text says a Pharaoh arose in Egypt that did not know Joseph. I would imagine that the story of Joseph was fading into pages of the history of Egypt. The new King of Egypt looked out and saw the Israelites had prospered in the land. Fear gripped the new Pharaoh and a plan was put into place to oppress the masses and bring greater wealth to Egypt.

I want to jump into the story here to make a point. I don’t think most business owners start business to oppress workers and subject them to unreasonable conditions. I think many business owners start out to not only make a living for themselves but others as well. However, in today’s business climate there are those that are sinister and evil in regards to making a buck. Their objective to is make as much money as they can, as quickly as they can, climbing over whomever they can and as fast as they can. In this environment, care for workers is not as important as making money. When takeovers, mergers and sales take place ---when a new pharaoh enters the scene and looks out over the land and sees the workers, generally, somebody is in trouble and it will not be the new owners.

Let me jump back into the story.

As time passes, under this new pharaoh, things get progressively worse for the Hebrews in Egypt. What was once a Godsend during the famine has become a curse. The people are oppressed, they live in less than ideal conditions and they cry out to God for help. After a period of time God hears their cries responds to their calls and sends the world’s first Union Organizer: Moses. Moses after some trials and tribulations is sent by God back to Egypt to tell Pharaoh let his people go. As it is with negotiations it is a back and forth struggle of give and take however the Israelites have God on their side and Moses as a negotiator eventually are freed from their oppressive working conditions.
I am sure that some are thinking what does this have to do with the Employee Free Choice Act.
1. I believe that God desires for us as human beings to have some say in our own destinies. Currently, when workers want to organize themselves into a union or collective bargaining unit the process for how to do that is not left in their hands but that of their employers. EFCA would allow workers the right to choose how they wanted to have their Union certified (which means recognized by the government) either by a simple majority of workers who sign up for the union or they could choose to hold their own elections.

2. The battle between Moses and Pharaoh took awhile and during that time the Egyptians used intimidation to get Moses and the Hebrews to stop pressing for their release including making it such that the Israelites had to make bricks without straw. In addition, they used Israelites within the ranks to report on others and offered them wealth for doing so. When the Employee Free Choice Act is passed, there will be stiff penalties for interfering with the workers’ rights to organize in much the same way God used the 10 plagues to punish Egypt for not negotiating in good faith.

3. With this new legislation once the NLRB has certified the union bargaining can begin on contracts almost immediately and if the process takes too long, help is available via a mediator. This will insure that a contract is settled within a reasonable amount of time

Workers and employers can find ways to work together. We can create a workforce that is more invested in their industries and production, more satisfied with their work and businesses that are more profitable. We have the opportunity to live out the best of our democratic ideas where all of us together have a say in our collective destiny.

When the people of our communities and neighborhoods have the ability to live out their dreams of a great job, great families and great communities we will see the world transformed.