A crowd of security guards who work at offices and stores around Center City blocked up Broad Street on Thursday during a march for higher pay.
“I get $14.95. After 17 years, I still don’t get 15,” said Doug Hunter, 37, a member of 32BJ SEIU, the union representing the guards.
“I’m almost at the 20 year mark, and I’m still struggling,” said Hunter, who said he has worked as a security guard at a downtown office for 17 years.
About 100 security guards and supportive union members blocked Broad Street with a symbolic “chain of poverty” during the demonstration.
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“I’m out here today for a fair, adequate, living wage. Everybody that works a full time job deserves a living wage,” Hunter said. “There are mothers and fathers out here working 40 to 60 hours a week and still struggling. I bet 70 percent of them work two jobs. I’m tired of that.”
The starting pay for security guards represented by 32BJ is around $10.25, which is higher than non-union security guards, union officials said.
Guards provide security at locations ranging from Center City offices and stores to the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University and hospital, Drexel, Hahnemann University Hospital, the Comcast Center, Reading Terminal and Lincoln Financial Field.
A living wage in Philadelphia for one adult and one child would be at least $23 an hour, according to an MIT study.
Hunter said he loves and enjoys his job, but he doesn’t earn enough to be able to pay for a car to help him commute up from South Philly.
“I love my job, I take pride in my job, there’s dignity in everything,” he said. “But I need to see some dignity in my paycheck.”
Philadelphia is known as the poorest big city in America, with an estimated 31 percent of the population on food stamps, 25 percent living below the poverty line, and 185,000 in “deep poverty.” Previous 32BJ-led protests have fought for higher wages and unionization for groups ranging from airport workers and adjunct professors to janitors and homecare workers.