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

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