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

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!

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