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November 12, 2015

Guards get 1st union contract

The firm providing the University’s security guards belatedly last week joined nine other security firms in agreeing to a union contract that will raise wages and provide health benefits to security guards throughout the city.

Security officers here recently were organized under the Service Employees International Union, which began bargaining in April for a unified contract with 10 security companies that employ guards in Pittsburgh.

When the other contractors last month agreed to a deal, Pitt’s contractor, U.S. Security Associates, was not among them.

The deal, retroactive to the Oct. 1 start agreed to by the other contractors, will raise hourly wages at least $1.95 over the course of the three-year agreement; provide employer-paid health insurance benefits; and add job protections and training for the workers, said Sam Williamson, district director for SEIU Local 32BJ.

U.S. Security employs about 200 security guards on the Pittsburgh campus, who earn an average of $8.93 an hour, Williamson said.

The company did not return a call seeking comment.

Robert Hartman, Pitt’s assistant vice chancellor for employee and labor relations, told the University Times, “We’re certainly pleased the parties were able to reach an agreement without disrupting services to our students,” reiterating that Pitt’s guards are employees of U.S. Security, not the University.

“We value their contribution in the University and the role they play in making our students feel secure in their dorms and walking on campus,” he said.

Guards and other supporters have demonstrated on campus in a bid for better training and higher pay. In a Sept. 25 rally, a delegation of Pitt students and security guards marched to the Cathedral of Learning to deliver to University administrators a stack of postcards signed by Pitt students in support of the guards’ demands. (See Oct. 1 University Times.)

“This is a very good start,” Lamar Johnson, a security guard in Pitt’s Sennott Square garage, told the University Times. The rallies on campus and Downtown were a lot of work, he said, “but work pays off.”

Johnson said the deal is not only good for the guards at Pitt, but also for the students and staff they serve.

“This is the first union contract that any security in Pittsburgh has ever had,” Johnson said. “It’s a big stepping stone. Things can only get better.”

 —Kimberly K. Barlow      

Filed under: Feature,Volume 48 Issue 6

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