To the strains of pro-labor anthems, five union members were arrested in East Falls on Tuesday afternoon while protesting working conditions at a Philadelphia-based security firm.
As reported by NewsWorks, security guards employed at Philadelphia University are upset with working conditions set by their employer, McGinn Security. Since McGinn took over the school’s security contract from AlliedBarton in June of 2012, employees are expressing concern over reduced pay – in some cases, a $3 per hour reduction – and no night-differential pay.
In addition, employees claim the loss of personal days, irregular schedules, and access to their pay – employees told NewsWorks that they must travel to McGinn Security on the 1300 block of Delaware Ave. to pick up their checks.
In February, 40 out of 50 McGinn security officers at Phila U. signed a petition demanding “better pay, benefits, and respect we deserve,” and rallied on the school’s campus.
In March, the guards staged a protest at the Franklin Institute while a Philadelphia University alumni function was taking place inside.
On Tuesday, approximately three dozen protesters from SEIU 32BJ, the service employees union that represents the guards employed at Phila U., marched along Henry Avenue to School House Lane to draw attention to their cause.
“Philadelphia is the worst city for poverty in the nation and we don’t need McGinn Security keeping hard-working Philadelphians in poverty,” said Wayne MacManiman, Mid-Atlantic District Director of 32BJ SEIU in a statement.
“The bottom line is better pay,” said Josette Bates, an overnight security officer at Phila U. “Before [McGinn], we were able to support our families with the pay we were making.”
Taking a more dramatic approach
After twenty minutes of demonstration, officials from the Philadelphia Police Department’s Civil Affairs Unit asked the protestors to leave the highway. While most transferred their remonstrance to the sidewalk, five members clad in black commando-style sweaters remained seated on Henry Avenue.
After receiving a warning from CAU commander Capt. Stephen Glenn, the five protesters were placed under arrest and placed into a PPD van for transportation and processing at the 39th Police District headquarters on Hunting Park Avenue.
According to police at the scene, each will be issued a summary violation of obstructing the highway and likely be released. The names of those arrested were not immediately available.
McGinn Security stays silent
Julie Blust, a spokesperson for 32BJ SEIU, said on Tuesday that such acts of civil disobedience are not taken lightly by her organization.
“It’s not something we would do if it wasn’t for the fact that McGinn Security was not responsive at all to any of the past protests,” said Blust. “It’s continuing, so it’s time to do something a little more dramatic.”
Some 32BJ SEIU members were inspired by the arrests.
“It’s great to see that people are willing to get arrested for standing up for us,” said McGinn security officer Kami Vincent in a statement. “We want McGinn Security to hear the message loud and clear that security officers perform an important job and deserve respect.”
The Phila U. security workers are beginning to get political backing for their cause. Councilmen Bill Greenlee and Kenyatta Johnson have both indicated support. Fourth District Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr. wasn’t immediately available for comment.
While neither Philadelphia University nor McGinn Security returned NewsWorks’ requests for statements, the parting refrain of 32BJ SEIU members indicated that this dispute is far from over.
“We’ll be back,” they chanted.