At Rally, Security Guards Call for Unionization

Nearly 100 Harvard employees, students, and union representatives from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 615 rallied outside of Holyoke Center on Friday to call for unionization and higher wages for the University’s security guards.

Union representatives and employees have claimed that AlliedBarton, the contractor which employs Harvard’s security guards, has thwarted the unionization attempts of workers, and that the University has cooperated with AlliedBarton’s effort.

According to SEIU spokeswoman Suzanne Morse, AlliedBarton’s security guards have been attempting to unionize for the last three years.

“As a collective group, we can break the silence,” president of SEIU Local 615, Rocio Saenz, said to the crowd on Friday.

AlliedBarton has denied these allegations.

“In the course of [several months of dialogue with its employees at Harvard], AlliedBarton has proposed several reasonable options to the SEIU which would accomplish these essential goals and offer each of our employees the opportunity to express their personal choice without fear of intimidation, coercion or retribution,” Larry Rubin, a spokesman for AlliedBarton wrote in an e-mail.

SEIU’s Morse argues that because security guards at other AlliedBarton sites have been able to unionize, it would appear that Harvard University is pressuring the company to keep its security guards from organizing.

Harvard spokesman Joe Wrinn said that the claims were “categorically not true” and that this was a “matter between AlliedBarton and their employees.”

Leaving the Holyoke Center plaza Friday, protestors marched to Memorial Hall while chanting “Harvard, escucha—Estamos en una lucha,” meaning in Spanish, “Harvard, listen—we are in a fight,” acknowledging the many Latino security guards on Harvard’s campus. Another refrain was, “What’s outrageous? Security guard’s wages. What’s disgusting? Union busting.”

Gubernatorial candidate Grace C. Ross ’83 of the Green-Rainbow party spoke out at the rally in support of unionization.

“Not only does [Harvard] have the money, but it has the power to make things right,” Ross said.

The crowd blocked traffic at the intersection of Broadway and Quincy streets and attracted the attention of many visitors in the Square for Freshman Parents Weekend, though rally organizers said the timing of the protest was coincidental.

The event ended with protestors casting black ribbons symbolizing their cause onto the steps of Memorial Hall.

The SEIU has plans for another rally on Nov. 17.

Friday’s protest was planned by the Student Labor Action Movement, the Harvard College Democrats, the Progressive Jewish Alliance, and the Black Men’s Forum.