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Don't let anyone tell you student activism is dead.

Students involved in last week's victory for AlliedBarton security guards at Temple would say they proved the contrary.

The security company granted its Temple guards up to three days' paid sick leave after coming under pressure from a coalition of its employees, Temple students and local activists.

This followed a similar decision for Penn guards last year to grant three days' leave for all full-time guards and a $5.30 per hour pay hike for roaming guards.

The Student Labor Action Project operates on both campuses as part of Jobs with Justice's Philadelphia campaign to raise security guard pay to the prevailing wage level of $17.48 with benefits and was instrumental in these changes.

SLAP became active at Penn in the spring of 2006 and at Temple in 2003.

Its involvement at Penn began soon after an incident in 2005 when five Penn guards presented a petition to Penn President Amy Gutmann in favor of unionization. These guards were then suspended by AlliedBarton and transferred off campus.

Hayling Price, a College junior and one of the founders of Penn's SLAP chapter, said this incident and Penn's ambiguous stance on its guards' unionization efforts inspired him and his peers to take action.

"Penn always talks about engaging locally and improving West Philadelphia," Price said. "Ninety-seven percent of the Penn AlliedBarton guards are black and live right here in our backyard, so improving their lives is improving West Philadelphia."

Student activists have also taken part in the many meetings with officials from Penn, Temple and AlliedBarton, and they find themselves in a position of considerable leverage.

For instance, Thomas Robinson, who is both a Temple junior and a security guard at Rodin College House, said that on Dec. 6 of last year Temple administrators and AlliedBarton representatives called a meeting exclusively with Temple students.

"If I'd only been a worker, I wouldn't have been invited," he said.

William Bergman, vice president of operations at Temple, said the university has no stance on guard unionization and primarily wants to satisfy its students' demands.

"We listened to what the students asked for and that was three sick days for the AlliedBarton guards," he said.

Nevertheless, the universities have needed - and continue to need, according to Robinson and others - plenty of persuasion to inch over towards the workers' side of the fight.

That persuasion has not always been docile in nature and sometimes students have turned to more dramatic actions, especially on Temple's campus in the past year.

Last December, for example, students staged a large protest outside a Temple University Trustees meeting and subsequently disrupted Temple President Ann Weaver Hart's open holiday party with a politically-charged Christmas carol.

"Penn and Temple have public prestige, and part of their prestige is based on the security of their campus and the safety of their students," Robinson said. "When they don't recognize us, they aren't recognizing our importance."

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