What was promised to be a “surprise” action on Temple’s campus by a disgruntled janitorial union against University trustee Richard J. Fox turned out to be nothing more than a minor disruption of a weekend student tour.
The Service Employees International Union Local 36 is targeting Fox because of what they say is his refusal to hire union janitors in buildings he owns.
Nearly 20 union members entered the Johnson and Hardwick cafeteria breezeway Saturday afternoon — which was also filled with prospective students touring the campus — to distribute flyers explaining their position, prompting their removal by Temple police.
“We’re just trying to feed our families,” union member David Pitt said.
Union organizer Paul Scully then asked to distribute the leaflets in the front of the dorm and police turned him down again, telling him they could not continue unless given permission by the University. The union members complied and dispersed.
Referring to Fox in an e-mail, union spokesperson Bill Beckler said he hoped the “action will cause Temple to rethink its relationship with this misguided and greedy man.”
Fox has served on the Temple Board of Trustees for 32 years and was chair of the Board for 16 years, stepping down last summer. His name is emblazoned across the front of the business school and is also the namesake of Temple’s center for biomedical physics.
The union hopes to embarrass Fox through their actions on Temple’s campus, thus forcing him to negotiate.
The union is angry because they say Fox Realty Co. refuses to use union janitors in a Chesterbrook building complex owned by Fox.
“Fox’s company … refused to work with the union. Those [janitorial] companies are unwilling to go union because they fear that Fox will kick them out when they do,” Beckler said.
The company manages 2.5 million square feet of office space in the Philadelphia suburbs as well as the First Union Center in South Philadelphia. Fox Realty Co. is also involved in suburban residential development. The company did not return requests for comment.
In the Philadelphia region, that effort is focused on contractors who clean buildings in the suburbs.
Suburban janitors make an average of $6-$7 an hour without benefits. In the city, janitors have health coverage and are paid $10-$13 an hour.
When a contractor’s janitors organize into a union, costs increase, which may lead to loss of contracts. The union must work with building owners to ensure that owners will not hire a non-union cleaner if their current contractor unionizes.
The union has used tactics like this elsewhere. In a 10-week strike against cleaning contractor Shellville Services, Inc., union members picketed building owners’ houses and houses in the owners’ communities. The strikers later interrupted a banquet attended by the building owners.
“In my five years [at Shellville], I haven’t received more than a 50-cent raise,” said union member Edward Green. Green and his son, also Edward Green, are janitors in Plymouth Meeting township.