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