Guards May Strike If Demands Not Met

Three protesters arrested for blocking traffic on Mass Ave.

As negotiations with AlliedBarton enter their fourth month without intervention from the Harvard administration, the University’s outsourced security guards voted yesterday to grant their Union leaders the power to call a strike if necessary.

As of 6 p.m. yesterday, over half of Harvard’s 250 security guards had cast their votes; at the time, the votes were unanimous in favor of granting the leaders’ authority to call a strike, according to Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 615’s Director of Organizing Lauren L. Jacobs.

“At any point, any day, the officers could strike,” Jacobs said. “I think the [security] officers will follow their leadership if it came to a strike.”

But Jacobs said the SEIU plans on continuing their negotiations with AllliedBarton “as long as progress is being made.”

Students, who have led their own protests in an effort to raise security guards’ wages, say they will support the guards’ decision to strike—if it comes to that.

“We’re 100 percent behind whatever the guards decide to do,” said Alyssa M. Aguilera ’08-’09, a member of Stand for Security, a coalition of student groups which has been advocating for higher wages for the guards.

Eleven undergraduates began a nine-day hunger strike that ended last Friday after University administrators said they would soon publish an audit examining AlliedBarton’s compliance with Harvard’s Wage and Benefits Parity Policy. The policy requires outside contractors like AlliedBarton to pay their employees wages comparable to those received by in-house, unionized employees who perform similar jobs. Currently, in-house guards are paid 19 cents more than those contracted from AlliedBarton. But students are demanding that Harvard also mandate a “living wage” for the guards, which the SEIU sets at $15 an hour.

In another protest against AlliedBarton’s wages—currently at $12.68 for security guards—three non-Harvard affiliates were arrested by the Cambridge Police Department (CPD) for blocking traffic on Mass. Ave early yesterday afternoon.

According to CPD Spokesman Frank T. Pasquarello, about 100 protestors—including undergraduates—gathered in front of the Holyoke Center before moving into Mass. Ave, last afternoon, where they proceeded to block traffic.

Three of the protestors were arrested at 1:55 p.m. and charged with disorderly conduct after refusing to move out of Mass. Ave, according to Pasquarello.

Jacobs identified those arrested as community organizers Darlene Lombos and Steve Meacham, along with SEIU 615’s chief negotiator, Michael Gallagher.

This Monday, student representatives will meet with top administrators, including Vice President for Human Resources Marilyn Hausammann, and Director of Labor and Employee Relations Bill Murphy, to further discuss the dispute over security guard wages, according to Aguilera, who is an inactive member of The Crimson’s editorial board.

Yesterday, Stand for Security received a two-page summary of the AlliedBarton audit report.

According to Eva Z. Lam ’10—a Stand for Security member who read the audit summary—the audit concludes that AlliedBarton is in compliance with Harvard’s wage parity policy.

Lam said she was disappointed with the audit because it does not address the different sizes of the comparatively larger AlliedBarton security guard union and the smaller in-house museum guard union.

Furthermore, the wages of the in-house guards are themselves unacceptable in the view of Stand for Security and SEIU Local 615.

Jamila R. Martin ’07 , one of last week’s hunger strikers, said that Harvard security officers are “basically getting parity to crappy wages.”

Representatives from AlliedBarton could not be reached for comment yesterday.

—Staff writer Khalid Abdalla can be reached at