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 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