Guards in Philadelphia win security of new union

About 2,500 Philadelphia security guards will get a present in the new year: recognition of their new union.

Negotiations started in July between private security contractors and the guards who work throughout the city —  everywhere from universities to office buildings to hospitals to the Lincoln Financial Field home of the Eagles.

The guards now will get what many workers take for granted, says Service Employees International Union head Wayne MacManiman.

“Workers will actually experience real health care, where if they get sick they won’t have to worry about big doctor bills. They are guaranteed vacation, sick time,” he said. “They will be able to take care of things like that if they should arise.”

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Guard Audry Davis said she is excited about the recognition an all it entails.

“With the health-care benefits, I don’t have to worry about taking my kids or grandkids to the free clinic, I can take them to a hospital to make sure they get the proper service,” she said. “With the wages, this will mean I can send them to a private school or pay for whatever they need for school.”

Sheila Register, another security officer, says getting a union is worth the wait.

“It’s been a long, hard struggle, but we are here, stronger together,” she said. “I’m not doing it only for me, it’s for the community — all of these struggling security officers who have been fighting and getting up early every day, securing the city. I’m really proud to be part of this.”

City Councilman Jim Kenney was one of many public officials who backed the group’s right to unionize.

“You see these folks every day and you don’t realize it. They are in office buildings, in cultural institutions, they are there to protect you as much as some of our police officers are there to protect you.”

The new union contract begins Jan.1 and health-care coverage for full-time employees will begin in 2014. Under the plan, wages for most of the workers will rise to between $10 and $13 an hour.

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