The Philadelphia Security Officers Union existed originally as a grassroots effort to improve working conditions for security officers throughout the City of Philadelphia. In the mid-2000s Fabricio Rodriguez, a talented union organizer and activist, working with Philadelphia Jobs with Justice, Bread and Roses Community Fund, and Philadelphians Organized to Witness Employer & Rebuild (POWER), collaborated with rank-and-file employees through collective action and community organizing to earn wage increases for security officers at the University of Pennsylvania and sick days for security officers at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA). After a series of successful grassroots campaigns, the security officers in Philadelphia sought to secure something more concrete in moving their causes forward. Rodriguez, along with organizers Eduardo Soriano-Castillo and Daniel Duffy — as well as security officers Donald Lindsay, Sulaiman Kamara, Cecilia Lynch, Dynitta Bryant, Lashan Stewart, Bernardo Dickerson, and countless other security officers and volunteer organizers — worked to form the Philadelphia Security Officers Union, the PSOU.
In September 2009 the PSOU filed its first representation petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), seeking to represent the security officers working at the PMA. On October 9 and 10, 2009, by a margin of 68 to 53, the security officers at the PMA voted to be represented by the PSOU. The election, although a victory for the PSOU, was followed by a legal challenge lodged by AlliedBarton Security Services, one of the nation’s largest security companies. The fledgling Union would not relent to the security giant, and on April 21, 2010, the NLRB certified the PSOU as the exclusive bargaining representative of the security officers at the PMA.
The next year saw the PSOU fight for its first-ever collective bargaining agreement. Motivated by then–Philadelphia Councilman Wilson Goode Jr.’s proposal of a living wage of $10.88 per hour (150% of minimum wage), the PSOU made $10.88 its mantra and its cause. The security officers at the PMA were making $10.03 per hour, and many of them had worked at the PMA since it was under the control of the City, where they earned a great deal more. After a year of difficult negotiations — highlighted by meetings and rallies in City Council Chambers, rallies around and in the PMA, and a return to grassroots organizing — on April 7, 2011, the PSOU reached a tentative agreement with AlliedBarton for its very first collective bargaining agreement. The agreement was later ratified by the membership, and went into effect on April 29, 2011, just two days before May Day — International Workers’ Rights Day.
While the PSOU was negotiating with AlliedBarton at the PMA, it continued its mission of fighting for security officers all throughout Philadelphia. On August 26, 2010, the PSOU filed a representation petition with the NLRB seeking to represent the security officers at the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation (DRWC). These security officers, at the time numbering only half a dozen, were severely underpaid, and were entrusted with keeping the visitors to Penn’s Landing safe. On October 7, 2010, the security officers at DRWC voted six to zero to be represented by the PSOU. The Union then engaged in very difficult negotiations — seeking mainly to increase the security officers’ pay (many of whom were only earning $8.00 per hour), and to increase the workforce so that the security officers and the public would remain safe. In June 2010, the PSOU membership ratified a new collective bargaining agreement for the DRWC security officers, wherein the officers would receive annual increases of $1.44 per hour in each of the two years of the contract, to bring the minimum hourly rate to $10.88, again consistent with the PSOU’s focal point.
Following the ratification of the agreement at the PMA, in May 2011, the PSOU held its first nominations meeting for Union officers. Donald Lindsay, Cecilia Lynch, and Sulaiman Kamara had served as interim officers while the Union continued through its creation period. After the nominations process, and an election on July 18, 2011, the membership elected Dynitta Bryant, President; Lashan Stewart, Vice President; Nicole Ray, Secretary; and Sulaiman Kamara as the union treasurer.
Returning to its roots at the University of Pennsylvania, on March 1, 2012, the PSOU filed a representation petition with the NLRB seeking to represent the security officers at UPenn. On April 11 and 12, 2012, the UPenn security officers voted 72 to 2 to be represented by the PSOU. Once more faced with difficult negotiations with AlliedBarton, the PSOU worked diligently to negotiate a contract that went into effect May 1, 2013, and saw security officers increasing their pay by $1.35 per hour.
On July 17, 2014, after the PSOU filed a petition with the NLRB, the security officers employed at the University City District voted 38 to two to be represented by the PSOU. The Union again engaged AlliedBarton in difficult negotiations, but was able to attain hourly wage increases of $1.62, including $1.12 in the first year of the contract.
In 2014, the PSOU elected a new Executive Board, comprising Terrell Rivers, President; Colin Koch, Vice President; David Rainey, Treasurer; Brian Armstrong, Secretary; Kamira Gardner, Assistant Secretary; and Pam Smith, Sergeant-at-Arms. Since then, Dominic Allen has been named Treasurer, Bryant Hall has become Secretary, and Kamira Gardner has been elevated to Secretary.
The PSOU has remained true to its roots, and still works as a rank-and-file union for security officers.
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