The union representing private security guards working in a handful of state buildings employed some disruptive theatrics Wednesday in an effort to raise awareness of unfair labor practices they say the New Jersey-based employer is using.
Impersonating SOS Security CEO Edward B. Silverman, 32BJ/SEIU delegate Wojciech Pirog hopped from a stretch limo on Capitol Avenue and proceeded throw peanuts at rallying security guards outside the Office of Policy and Management headquarters.
“Go back to work,” Pirog shouted into a megaphone while holding a glass of champagne. “This is all you need. This all you’re worth. I’ll give you peanuts.”
The demonstration was prompted by an ongoing labor dispute between SOS Security and 32BJ. Though the guards voted to unionize, 32BJ political director Matt O’Connor said the company has not recognized the union.
In April, the private security workers voted to strike if they had to in order to force the company to make its required pension compensations. The guards eventually went on a one day strike in May.
But the union also charges the company with breaching their workers’ contracts by failing to pay its guards the correct wages, not paying holiday rates, and not resolving labor issues in a timely manner.
Responding to the Department of Administrative Services, SOS said in May that it had appropriately compensated all of its employees currently working under the contract with the state.
But the union shot back with a letter urging DAS to require the company to appropriately compensate all the employees who had been working under the current contract, not just those currently working. They also said some current workers were not included in the company’s audit that concluded they had all been compensated.
In a letter to SOS, the Administrative Services Department agreed.
“SOS remains in breach due to limiting the back pay to active employees only and not including ‘all staff assigned under the Contract from the period February 1, 2010 through present,’” Tina Costanzo, a contract team leader at DAS, wrote in August.
The department gave SOS until Aug. 31 to respond to the letter or risk the termination of their contract with the state. On Wednesday, department spokesman Jeffrey Beckham said he didn’t think the company had responded but DAS staff members were following up with them.
For the time being Beckham said the department was not terminating the company’s contract.
However, 32BJ claims the company was willing to terminate one of their employees for taking part in union activities.
Alexis Lozano, a guard of nine years, said he was fired from his job three weeks ago for wanting better working conditions.
“I asked for the rights of workers to benefits, for medical issues, sick days, and respect. They didn’t respect the workers,” Lozano said standing outside the building he used to work in.
Perhaps venting some frustration, the guards gathered Wednesday chanted and threw peanuts back at the man impersonating their CEO.
“Go back to New Jersey,” they shouted.
Eventually Pirog did get back in the limo and depart but not before tossing a few more peanuts out the window.
Representatives of SOS Security did not immediately return requests for comment.
It wasn’t the first time 32BJ and Pirog have pulled a publicity stunt to protest employment practices. Last December he dressed up as “Union Santa” and delivered a bucket of coal to the Hartford Courant which had terminated its contract with eight unionized janitors a few weeks earlier.