Gathered outside AlliedBarton Security Services’ Philadelphia headquarters on Sunday, labor activists, security guards and church members continued to demand increases in wages and benefits for AlliedBarton employees.
Marchers with signs hung around their necks stating “I am a Human” — a gender-neutral variation of the iconic “I am a Man” protest led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Birmingham, Ala. — began their procession at Arch Methodist Church and ended at the AlliedBarton building on 18th and Market streets.
The demonstration, the capstone event of Temple Student Labor Action Project’s Student Labor Week of Action, was the latest effort by Jobs with Justice and SLAP to pressure AlliedBarton to raise what they say are frugal wages and benefit packages.
It was also organized in commemoration of King’s April 4, 1968, assassination in Memphis, Tenn. In a speech at the Methodist Church minutes before the march, Bishop Dwayne Royer of the Living Water United Church of Christ, told the audience that King’s message must not be “dusted off” only during Black History Month and Martin Luther King Day.
“Dr. King was not just a civil rights activist, he worked faithfully on the issues of peace and economic justice,” Royer said. “On the night he was killed, he was battling for Memphis sanitation workers to get decent wages, fighting for the right to be treated equally, fighting for the right for improved working conditions.”
Proceeding down 17th Street and Market Street, Royer led marchers in singing “We Shall Overcome” before altering the lyrics to “We Shall Be Well-Paid” and “We Shall Have Health Care.”
The primary target for speakers’ invective on Sunday was Ron Perelman, CEO of AlliedBarton’s holdings company MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings Inc. In the days leading up to the Week of Action, SLAP and JWJ said that a major goal of their campaign was to attach Perelman’s name to the conditions of workers.
“While [Perelman] is giving money away to Temple and [the University of Pennsylvania] and the Art Museum, why isn’t he putting it into the paychecks of the people who make his money for his donations?” Royer said to applause from the pews.
JWJ and SLAP achieved a compromised victory in January after Temple negotiated with AlliedBarton to allow workers a maximum of three paid sick days. Both groups had been campaigning for months to earn security guards five paid sick days.
JWJ President Fabricio Rodriguez has accused the compromise of being a “PR stunt,” claiming that workers only earn one sick day per year of full-time employment and that transferring employees from one location to another negates the time worked toward another sick day at any previous job site.
Both Rodriguez and professor of geography and urban studies Marc Lamont Hill, who wrote a column in the April 3 edition of the Philadelphia Metro to build publicity around Sunday’s rally, estimate that only about 10 percent of AlliedBarton guards will ever earn a sick day.
In a letter sent to the Metro responding to Hill’s column, Jim Gorman, vice president and general manager of AlliedBarton’s Philadelphia offices, said that guards keep their benefits if they are transferred to a different facility. The letter also stated that AlliedBarton employs 30 percent of the Philadelphia security workforce, compared to the 85 percent figure claimed by Hill and JWJ.
Gorman could not be reached for comment in time for this article. Larry Rubin, an AlliedBarton spokesman, said he did not know the exact details of the benefit given to security guards, but said, “Whatever they asked for, that’s what they got.”
Andrew Thompson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.