The struggle to unionize AlliedBarton security officers at Temple continues as the Student Labor Action Project, in conjunction with Jobs with Justice, launched their “Week of Action” last week, calling for students and security officers to unite.
The “Week of Action” began on March 28 with a screening of a documentary called At the River I Stand. The film outlined Martin Luther King Jr.’s involvement with the Memphis sanitation workers in 1968 and their efforts to obtain better wages and union recognition. It also served as a connection to highlight the organizing efforts currently happening on Main Campus for AlliedBarton security guards.
Following the film, Mitchell McCaine of the Philly 5, a group of University of Pennsylvania security officers suspended by AlliedBarton after petitioning to the university president for a union, addressed the audience. Representatives of Service Employees International Union and other AlliedBarton officers were also present.
“The message tonight is that we need your support,” McCaine said, beginning his speech.
Throughout his speech, McCaine emphasized that many people ignore the value of service workers and the importance of their job.
“We don’t look at the person who does the work and try to figure out what do you pay that person to take care of themselves and to have a life,” he said.
McCaine said that the $8 an hour starting wage makes it difficult for people to cover living expenses, especially the health care plan offered by AlliedBarton, without working overtime or double shifts.
“I get paid $8 an hour at my work and I rely on my parents a lot,” said Alan Alco, a sophomore political science major, noting that he feels safe when he sees security officers on his way to early morning track practices. “I know $8 an hour is not enough to pay car insurance bills or apartment bills.”
An AlliedBarton security officer who has worked for nine years at Temple, said that guards, particularly those working in residence halls, must also deal with losing their jobs by the end of the semester when campus buildings close. The officer, who asked not to be named for fear of losing his job, also claimed that AlliedBarton modifies wage rates depending on specific sites or posts.
“Most of the guards you see here on Temple’s campus are young,” the officer said. “For most of them this might be the first job they ever had. Most of them will not stand up and say what they need. We need to get a union to protect these young people because, until we get one, AlliedBarton is not going to do anything.”
Like McCaine, the officer stressed the importance of student involvement, asking the audience to consider what a campus would be like without security. The officer concluded that AlliedBarton would only initiate change if pressured by Temple and that pressure must come from students.
“As students we have a lot more power than we realize,” said Alison Huxta, SLAP organizer. “We are the consumer of this institution, so we have the power to say that we think our money should go to work wages that are fair and proper benefits for workers.
Some students by the end of the program were eager to support the efforts of security officers. Aliya Adenuga, a junior psychology major, said she is ready to do all she can to help the AlliedBarton officers, though she was uncertain before the March 28 SLAP event.
“A lot of times as students we get here and focus on our class work and all the responsibilities that we have and we don’t remember how important things like this are,” Adenuga said. “But once you look into the eyes of someone that has to deal with this … and you see the frustration on their faces, … I think that provides a connection. I feel more of an obligation and I feel like something needs to be done.”
The rest of the week included speakers from a workers’ rights advocacy organization, United Students Against Sweatshops, who discussed the importance of students organizing and labor movement involvement. SLAP’s “Week of Action” culminates with a rally today at noon beginning on the intersection of 12th Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue where students, faculty, labor organizers and security officers are expected to march to the Bell Tower.
Malaika T. Carpenter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.