Penn has been paying security guards less than the city's required $15 wage, said Gabe Morgan, vice president of the Service Employees International Union 32BJ.
In February, Philadelphia City Council explicitly ruled that Penn security guards must receive the $15 wage by July 1. Two months later, hourly wages for the majority of guards are fixed at $11.85, according to a September pay stub obtained by The Daily Pennsylvanian from SEIU 32BJ.
The law established that all four-year higher education institutions that receive public subsidies would be required to pay the $15 prevailing wage to security guards. Prevailing wage varies by occupation, and differs from Philadelphia's minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.
On July 22, about 50 security guards marched to the Municipal Services Building to file a complaint against publicly subsidized universities and hospitals for not complying with the prevailing wage law, according to a statement from 32BJ SEIU.
Since July, the city has informed Penn a second time that they are required to pay the prevailing wage, but wages for security guards have not increased, Morgan said. Other institutions, such as Drexel University and Temple University, have not complied with the new law either, he said.
Penn spokesperson Stephen MacCarthy and Director of Media Relations Ron Ozio did not respond to multiple requests for comment. The Penn Security Office, and Penn Office of Human Resources, which oversees employee benefits, also did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Penn is being investigated along with other institutions by the city's Department of Labor, Morgan said, and if they do not pay the prevailing wage, they will be required by law to return all public money to the city.
When the July 1 deadline for meeting the prevailing wage requirements passed and her wage remained the same, Security Guard Shakia Moore, one of the many Penn guards involved in filing the July 22 complaint, said she immediately reached out to representatives from her union, 32BJ SEIU.
“Leading up to the date, me and all of my coworkers were excited about it," Moore said. "We felt like it was time for us to finally have that, since it is the law.”
Moore said she values being backed by a union as she is currently struggling with her mother's medical bills and her own personal expenses.
Penn Student Labor Action Project said in a statement that the group stands in solidarity with the security guards of Philadelphia in their fight to secure fairer wages.
"The institutions that employ them, such as Penn, Temple, and Drexel, are profiting off their labor and have more than enough money to spare a decent wage," the statement read. "No one deserves to live paycheck to paycheck, and we commend SEIU 32BJ for their pushback against university greed."
Allied Universal, the company through which Penn contracts security guards, did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Multiple Penn security guards interviewed said the company has prohibited them from speaking publicly about matters relating to their legal battle for prevailing wage.
Asked why Penn is not acting in accordance with the ruling, Morgan said, “I don’t know what possible legal explanation there could be. It’s really straightforward; the law says what the law says.”