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Over 200 Harvard security guards signed a petition affirming that they are willing to strike if key issues are not resolved during the ongoing contract negotiations.
Guards submitted the petition to their union representatives Monday at a small gathering in front of the Holyoke Center. Over 80 percent of the security guards at the University signed the petition.
The threat of a strike comes after Securitas, the private contractor which employs security guards for the University, introduced a new health care proposal going into the last week of contract negotiations.
Union leaders said that the new health care plan is much worse than the one already in place and that they want the plan taken off the table.
The University has said in the past that it will not comment on contract negotiations with Securitas.
“I commend the security guards for their courage,” said Wayne M. Langley, the director of higher education for SEIU Local 615, the union which represents Harvard security guards. “We deserve the right to health care, we earned the right to health care, and we should fight for it.”
Langley also emphasized the importance of unity in combatting the proposed plan.
“Together we are strong,” he said. “Together, we can accomplish our goals.”
Matthew Gulish, an organizer for SEIU, said that Monday’s demonstration was just the beginning, and that union members and supporters of the security guards would be demonstrating their support in front of the Holyoke Center twice a day for the rest of the week.
“There will be people holding signs and showing support,” he said. “We are going to show support all the way through the negotiations.”
Gulish said that the union will continue to rally around this issue until the security guards are presented with an acceptable contract.
“It’s important for workers to have a fair wage and good benefits,” Gulish said. “And it’s important that we show our support as workers try and go after these issues.”
Students also featured prominently in the event. Sandra Y.L. Korn ’14—a member of The Crimson’s editorial board and a member of the Student Labor Action Movement—said she believes that students will support whatever course of action security guards decide to take, including a strike.
“On behalf of all the students of Harvard, I want you to know that your fight is our fight,” she said. “If you want to picket, rally, or even strike, we’re here behind you all the way.”
Betty Maitland, a member of the union’s bargaining committee who symbolically accepted the petition during the demonstration, said that the union is dedicated to winning the battle on health care, no matter what it takes.
“We intend to fight this right to the end and strike if necessary to preserve our health care,” Maitland said. “We have more signatures on the petition all the time.”
While the petition to strike is largely a result of the new proposed health care plan put forward by Securitas, Local 615 is also pushing Securitas on other issues, such as full-time work.
Securitas could not be reached for comment.
—Staff writer Mercer R. Cook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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