Penn Local 115 Teamster members are celebrating a new contract that increases pay and ends the two-tier pay system that prevented some housekeepers from earning the same wages and benefits as their coworkers.
The five-year contract was ratified by the union on June 29 before their previous contract expired at the end of the month. Hopes for a better contract were highlighted by a June 2 protest on College Green.The new agreement will give housekeepers, hard surface custodians, and transportation workers an annual raise of 3.5% to 4% a year, ensuring that all workers will make $28.68 an hour by 2026. Additionally, the contract includes Juneteenth as a new paid holiday and extra paid vacation days at Christmas.
Under the two-tier system, housekeepers in the lower tier made $5 less per hour despite doing the same work as those in the higher tier, CBS3 Philly reported. Penn Teamsters used a rank-and-file contract campaign to support their efforts by coordinating increased attendance at union meetings, educating members on their union rights, and rallying outside their union hall. Even with strong member support for an end to two-tier pay, the campaign received resistance from their union officials throughout the contract negotiation process, Teamsters for a Democratic Union reported.
The June 2 protest, which was held alongside the Philadelphia Security Officers Union, also rallied against the mistreatment and lack of support for workers contracted through Allied Universal Security Services, which provides over 550 guards to Penn. Protesters gathered to express that they are overworked, overmanaged, and lacking adequate equipment to keep them safe in light of rising crime rates in West Philadelphia. Despite being essential workers since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, housekeepers and security officers believe they are not being respected for their work.
Housekeeper Ja’Wuan Thomas told The Daily Pennsylvanian at the protest that unfair work practices have become more frequent, including the removal of seniority rights and housekeepers being assigned to buildings and shifts that they did not sign up for. Thomas added that there have been instances of harassment — including physical harassment — against University workers, emphasizing why safety is a top priority in new union contracts.
“They're making housekeepers clean two or three buildings within eight hours. [They overwork, overmanage, and send] two or three managers over to supervise one housekeeper,” Thomas said. “We … want stronger protections. We don't want our housekeepers to be working to the bone — they should have a fair day's worth of work.”
PSOU President Colin Koch told the DP that their union’s fight is with Allied Universal, which has yet to give security officers a raise that was initially promised to the officers by July 1, 2020. Koch and PSOU Treasurer Mateen Travis-Bey hope that the University will put pressure on Allied Universal to prioritize better wages in contract negotiations, especially as inflation continues to rise in the United States.
“We know [Allied Universal has] to make a profit as well, but at least, you know, in good faith, give us something that we actually deserve. Because we're out here every day, … during the pandemic, in the heat … the snowstorms, and hurricanes, the crime’s up, [but] we’re still here,” Travis-Bey said.
PSOU’s current contract with Allied Universal expired on June 30. As of July 13, it is unclear whether PSOU and Allied Universal have finalized a new contract.