Workers Demand Union, Better Contract

Harvard security guards and janitors rally in Square, deliver letter of complaint

About 40 janitors and security guards who work at Harvard met in front of the Holyoke Center under a stormy sky yesterday to rally for better contracts and a security guard union.

Those present demanded a stronger contract for janitors. The contract is slated to be renewed Nov. 15.

A smaller group of about 20 security guards employed by the Harvard contractor Allied Security then marched to the Allied Security office in Wigglesworth Hall to deliver a letter of complaint.

Paul Kane, an Allied Security officer at the Harvard Design School, said the guards’ grievances center around not being fully paid for hours worked and not having a union or a collective voice in their terms of employment.

“We’re looking to change that, so that we can negotiate the contracts,” Kane said. “We just want to be included in that talk.”

“There’s issues around officers working scheduled hours and not being paid for them,” Service Employees International Union organizer Emerson Harris said. “And it happens regularly.”

An Allied Security spokesman did not return repeated requests for comment.

Bill Murphy, director of labor and employee relations for the University, said that the security officers met with him earlier yesterday to discuss their grievances.

He said the University’s parity policy entitles the guards to the same pay and amount of paid vacation as unionized workers, even though they do not have a union.

“We audit our vendors for compliance,” Murphy said, adding that the security guards’ concerns would be addressed in the next audit.

Harris said the guards have sent a petition with 70 security guards’ signatures to Allied Security’s local, regional, and national headquarters but have not received any response.

This silence, he said, impelled the officers to air their concerns publicly.

“Can you imagine you wrote a paper and the professor wouldn’t grade it?” Harris asked. “Because there’s no unions, there’s no grievance process,” he added. “They can only take their issues to their supervisor.”

When the rally reached Wigglesworth Hall, the Allied Security manager was not in his office. The security guards pledged to wait until he returned, chanting slogans like, “No respect, no peace,” in Spanish and English.

When yesterday’s light drizzle intensified to a drenching downpour, the guards and union organizers began a chant of “We’ll be back!” and the group quickly dispersed.

Some students were supportive, although no crowds followed the marchers and several students watching from Wigglesworth said loudly that the rally annoyed them.

Shuo Huang ’09, who was involved with the march through the Student Labor Action Movement, said he did not mind their comments.

“It’s good, even if people complain, because they’re listening,” Huang said.

Huang said solidarity was one of his reasons for joining the march. “We have to help everyone in the community,” he said.

“If you made $10 an hour and tried to live in Boston, you’d be fighting to organize, too,” said Socialist Alternative member Johnhenry R. “Hank” Gonzalez ’06.