AlliedBarton security guards at Penn voted late Wednesday night to join the Philadelphia Security Officers Union in a landslide 72-2 vote.
PennWalk and Penn Park officers, who are employed by AlliedBarton, are protesting poor working conditions, unfair promotions and insufficient health insurance benefits.
As a union, the officers and PSOU are legally allowed to negotiate with the national security officer company.
Corey Dowdle, an AlliedBarton officer who has been at Penn for three years, is stunned by the overwhelming support for the union. He and several others have been leading the movement to unionize.
“I knew it was going to be big based on the positive reinforcement we got from everybody, but I had no idea it would win by this margin,” he said. “It’s absolutely astonishing.”
PSOU president Dynnita Bryant is also thrilled at the result.
“I’m so happy that the University of Pennsylvania wanted to join us. This means we can make a difference in their workplace and do collective bargaining units with our own management. We don’t need an outsider to come in and fight our battles.” PSOU currently consists of about 230 security officers from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Penn’s Landing and Delaware River Offices, according to Bryant.
An emailed statement from AlliedBarton said the company is “pleased that the procedure set forth by the National Labor Relations Board resulted in an election process that allowed officers in the applicable unit to vote his or her choice for union representation.”
The University said its administration is not involved in the negotations between AlliedBarton and the security officers. “We recognize the rights of workers to organize under current laws governed by the National Labor Relations Board, but we do not intervene between a company’s management and its employees,” Executive Vice President Craig Carnaroli said.
Over the past month and a half, the security officers have been declaring their intent to unionize through a series of rallies. They have been trying to garner community support. The Student Labor Action Project showed their support for the officers’ efforts by collecting 84 signatures in a petition.
The security officers are protesting their health insurance package provided by Pan-American Life Insurance Group and the sick day policy — one every year for up to three years.
AlliedBarton spokesperson Larry Rubin said “AlliedBarton Security Services does not comment on personnel matters in order to maintain the confidentiality and protection of our employees.” With regards to health insurance, the company wrote that, “We offer comprehensive benefits packages to our employees.”
Many AlliedBarton officers said members from the Service Employees International Union have been recruiting them to the union through excessive phone calls and house visits.
AlliedBarton officer Joshua Hupp questions SEIU’s intentions and said if they were to represent them, it would slow them down.
Gabe Morgan, the state director for a Pennsylvania sector for SEIU, said, “At this point, SEIU has organized well over 2,000 officers in Philadelphia, and we’ve done that both at home, through meetings, and other ways. People have different ideas about what the best way to form a union is, but the way to be most effective as workers is to fight together as a union,” he said.
According to Morgan, approximately 400 security officers at Penn have signed cards with SEIU, which is how the organization has access to their home addresses.
“It seems like people are pitting us against PSOU. That’s not happening. We’re not competing with them. From our vantage point, the real point for both organizations is that people want to help security officers not be in poverty. We’re not fighting with or refuting PSOU, and I don’t think they’re fighting us either,” he said.
“Thousands of security officers are being organized and worked out of poverty, and that’s a really good thing.”
AlliedBarton officers have been fighting for better worker benefits for some time now.
In September 2005, five AlliedBarton officers were suspended after handing University President Amy Gutmann a petition asking for improved work conditions. The petition included over 200 signatures from security guards at Penn, Temple University and the Community College of Philadelphia.
Two years later, AlliedBarton increased the amount of sick days for its full-time Penn employees from none to one a year. But it was in 2008 when the security guards received up to three days of paid sick leave and a wage increase from $9.70 to $15 an hour.
PSOU organizer Fabricio Rodriguez said the 2008 wage raise was “the first real economic victory.”
He added that the officers have scored little victories along the way.
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