Allied Security Guards Push for Unionization

Workers say adequate conflict resolution mechanisms don't exist

Some employees of AlliedBarton, a security firm contracted by Harvard, are accusing their company of ignoring their calls for unionization.

Frustrated by what they say is a lack of mechanisms to express grievances such as the withholding of wages and frequent shift changes, guards with Allied, the nation’s largest private security firm, have been trying to unionize for about a year.

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 615 seeks to represent the AlliedBarton security guards. SEIU organizer Emerson Harris says there are about 250 to 300 Allied officers working at locations across the University.

The union and some workers have sent three petitions to Allied’s management requesting that they meet with them about making changes to the company’s grievance process. Workers have said that a union would help facilitate conflict resolution.

Employee Wimsky Jean said that when he approached Allied’s management about waiting six months to be paid for a week of vacation time, his supervisors responded with the threat of suspension.

Jean said that he subsequently began receiving twice-a-day visits from his supervisor.

“I’d rather lose my job for the sacrifice for others than not have a union,” he said.

Repeated requests for comment yesterday afternoon to Rob Taylor, the Allied official overseeing the company’s employees at Harvard, were not returned.

Milton G. Scope, a four-year employee who guards the Countway Library of Medicine, said “there’s a great deal of intimidation” at Allied.

“We’re in the process of organizing,” he said. “Trust me, they’re not pleased about it.”

Fidel E. Solano said he began to support unionization after the company mistreated him when he had health problems. Allied administrators “do not have respect for the people who really come in to work here,” Solano said.

Solano spoke at a teach-in held March 8 by the Students Labor Action Movement (SLAM), a group that is supporting the guards’ unionization efforts.

At the event, Solano said: “[Allied says], ‘we’re not going to fire you for starting a union, but we’re going to make your lives a living hell.’”

AlliedBarton has recently also been targeted by student labor activists at the University of Pennsylvania.

William Murphy, Harvard director of employee and labor relations, said yesterday that Harvard has no part in the unionization negotiations with Allied.

“We view it as a matter between AlliedBarton and the employees,” he said, adding that the University in principle is “in support of employees choosing whether or not to have unions.”

Murphy said he has not been approached by Allied employees.

“The question is ultimately will Harvard continue its path of worker appreciation,” said Harris, the union organizer. “In the same situation as they did with the janitors, will it stand behind its security workforce and show its support?”

SEIU’s janitors won an increase in starting pay during contract negotiations with Harvard last fall.

—Staff writer Benjamin L. Weintraub can be reached at bweintr@fas.harvard.edu.