Security Guards Worried About Prospect of Outsourcing

Harvard says no guards will be fired, but union fears they may have to move to other University jobs

David E. Stein

DANNY MEAGHER, vice president of the Harvard University Security, Parking and Museum Guards Union (HUSPMGU) addressed a rally protesting the outsourcing of guard positions. See story, page 3.

Harvard has indicated in ongoing negotiations that it plans to outsource all remaining in-house security guard positions, union leaders say.

While University administrators insist that no employees will be fired, they have said they will not continue to hire a mixture of in-house and outsourced security guards.

If their jobs are subcontracted out, it is likely that in-house security guards who want to stay at Harvard will have to change to other jobs in the University.

In response, their union—Harvard University Security, Parking and Museum Guards Union (HUSPMGU)—has organized a letter-writing campaign to top Harvard administrators, including University President Lawrence H. Summers.

And as e-mails speculating on the fate of the guards circulated on House open lists, the Progressive Student Labor Movement (PSLM) held a rally that attracted a small but enthusiastic crowd of students and union members to the front of the Holyoke Center on Monday afternoon to protest the outsourcing of those jobs.

“What’s disgusting?” bellowed a student behind the megaphone.

“Union-busting!” responded the assembled crowd.

With the contracts of the security guards’ union set to expire next Tuesday and the possible outsourcing of those security positions, much is on the table for the 17 guards Harvard employs directly, who patrol the Yard and Kirkland and Mather Houses.

The Negotiations

According to Danny Meagher, vice-president of HUSPMGU, the University first indicated its outsourcing plans in early June—just as the final waves of students left Cambridge.

“It was my initial understanding that the University meant to end those 17 jobs,” says Meagher. “We were told that the jobs were going to end.”

And though Harvard has not explicitly backed away from those plans, union leaders say recent negotiations have given them renewed hope.

HUSPMGU President Steve McCombe, who is also a Yard security guard, said the public outpouring of support has helped the guards.

“At the beginning, I was led to believe that we would be out of here on July 1,” he says, “but since then there’s been a lot of support and a lot of people have come forward.”

As the current HUSPMGU contract nears expiration, University administrators are candid about their desire to outsource. Deputy Director of Labor and Employee Relations James LaBua says the current mix of in-house and contract security guards does not represent the best way to provide security for the school community.

“Any major employer would look at this and say there seems to be some merit in unifying all those forces,” says LaBua, adding that the employment of guards from different institutions means various logistical difficulties for the school. “We are in the process of looking to unify the existing security guard force.”