On Guard | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

On Guard 

Two City-County Building security guards fired this summer for trying to unionize are now back to work, thanks to pressure from a local union.

In August, City Paper first reported that Am-Gard -- a contractor that provides security services to the city -- terminated Edward C. Millender and William Miller after photos of the two employees showed up on a pro-union flier distributed by Service Employees International (SEIU) Local 32BJ. [See "Caught Off Guard," Aug. 27.] However, roughly a month after the union fired back with legal charges against the company's actions, Am-Gard reinstated the two workers.

"I feel real good," says Miller, 48, of East Liberty. "I believed [the union] would get my job back."

Miller says an Am-Gard supervisor contacted him in early September about returning to the company. Although his former post at the City-County Building had been filled, the supervisor -- who, Miller says, never apologized for, or even acknowledged Am-Gard's actions -- offered Miller a security-guard position at a couple of Downtown banks, where he started working on Sept. 10. And a week later, Miller says he and Millender were back on Grant Street, protecting city officials. 

"We're very happy for [Millender and Miller]," says Gabe Morgan, Western Pennsylvania director of the SEIU 32BJ. "Seeing them get back to work is great."

On Aug. 12, the SEIU filed charges against Am-Gard with the National Labor Relations Board, arguing that federal law bars employers from firing workers because of union-organizing activity. Am-Gard, which pays the two workers a little more than $8 an hour, "restrained and coerced its employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed" by the National Labor Relations Act, the SEIU's filing claimed. 

Roughly a month after Am-Gard reinstated Millender and Miller, the labor board filed a formal complaint with the company on Oct. 16. The complaint agrees with the union's charges, stating that Am-Gard "has been discriminating in regard to the hire ... or conditions of employment of its employees, thereby discouraging membership in a labor organization in violation of" the National Labor Relations Act.

"We think the workers were reinstated because the company realizes they broke the law," says Morgan. 

Am-Gard officials did not return phone calls for comment.

The labor board also agreed with the SEIU that the company should provide back pay for the hours Millender and Miller missed after their firing. A hearing on the matter, which will be presided over by a labor board administrative law judge, is scheduled for Dec. 15.

"I would love to get that money back," says Miller. "It was [Am-Gard's] fault for firing us."



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