While the original observance of May Day by the ancient Celts and Saxons celebrated the first spring planting, the meaning of the day was forever changed on May 1, 1886, when U.S. and Canadian workers declared a strike in support of the eight-hour workday.
Following a protracted struggle by workers and unions - and a deadly backlash by industry and law enforcement - the day was declared a holiday by the International Working Men’s Association in 1889 in Paris. Their rallying cry, “eight hours for work, eight hours for sleep, eight hours for what we will,” became the standard for most workers in the industrialized West.
More recently, the 2006 and 2007 May Day immigrant rights marches in the United States have reminded the world of the holiday’s meaning: to provide fair labor standards for and appreciate the value of all workers.
Appreciating Our Human Resources
Given the proud history of May Day, it seems only fitting that Third Sector New England entered into a new contract with Northeast Security, Inc. on that date for security services at the NonProfit Center. Northeast is one of the region’s most highly regarded firms, especially for its progressive employee relations policies.
According to Leah McNeill, office manager for TSNE, the deciding factor in moving from the former security company to Northeast was the latter’s commitment to providing a living wage and professional development for its employees.
“Northeast makes sure that its people are better compensated,” explains McNeill, “and they provide good benefits. They pay 80 percent medical; the next highest is 60/40.
“The company also provides tuition reimbursement. As far as I know, they are the only company in the industry that offers this benefit to its employees.”
Adds Megan Kenny, APM, with the NonProfit Center’s property management company Jones Lang LaSalle, “The former security vendor had higher overhead, but there was an extreme lack of training and supervision of staff. Northeast has smaller overhead costs, so a greater percentage of contract dollars goes to staff salaries and benefits.”
Getting There from Here
By mid-2006, TSNE and the other NonProfit Center tenants had become frustrated by the former security company’s lack of commitment to ensuring consistency in the professionalism and skill-level of the company’s personnel.
“The company was unwilling to work with staff to improve their performance,” explains McNeill. “As a small site, we need security people who have the training and expertise to ensure that we are secure.
“The guards did the best that they could with what they had, but their company did not give them the support they needed to provide the best possible service for the Center.”
Luckily, as TSNE weighed possible solutions, an October 6, 2006, Op-Ed calling for fair working conditions for security guards appeared in the Boston Globe. It was penned by Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Rev. Gregory G. Groover Sr., pastor at the Charles Street AME Church.
So TSNE staff contacted the mayor’s office to discuss finding progressive security companies with whom to work. We were put in touch with Michael Kineavy, chief of policy & planning in the Menino Administration, who introduced us to staff at Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 615. The union has been at the forefront of the living wage issue for security personnel in this area and nationwide.
The union provided the names of progressive security services companies that are providing better wages and benefits than is standard in this woefully undervalued industry. After a competitive bidding process, Northeast Security, Inc. was awarded the contract.
Explains McNeill, “TSNE has incurred additional expenses in hiring Northeast, but it is worth it given who we are and what we stand for at TSNE. And better treatment of the guards means better security for the NonProfit Center.”
Benefits for Guards and NonProfit Center
According to McNeill, Northeast Security, Inc. goes the extra mile in providing the best service to NonProfit Center tenant organizations. “As part of the company’s policies, the guards are expected to meet and greet the tenants. They get out from behind the guard’s desk in the morning, lunchtime and between 4 and 6 p.m. when tenants leave.”
The company also provides a site supervisor who is an experienced guard. After taking the first shift, that person is available to guards in later shifts if any issues arise.
“There is someone available at Northeast 24/7 for guards to contact,” adds Kenny. “This is great for small issues that do not rise to the level of calling local law enforcement.”
“Our employees bring a sense of true security to our customers, because our staff cares about their jobs,” explains Sheila Quinlan, vice president and assistant general manager at Northeast. “We have employees who have been here for five, 10, 15 years and are loyal to us. We help them, they help us.
“They actually care about the buildings in which they work; they get know the people in the buildings and care about their safety.”
According to Kenny, Northeast Security not only met, but also exceeded the NonProfit Center’s expectations. The company provides:
Fair and livable wages for their employees
Full benefits to full and part-time employees
A complete and continual training program
Tuition reimbursement for criminal justice and security services studies
24 hour management support
When asked why the company has such a strong commitment to its employees when providing fewer benefits would mean more profit for the principals, Quinlan answers, “We want to keep people working for us. We want to retain people. I never thought I’d be here 20 years later when I started as a guard.”
She notes that the company is a local vendor based in Brookline, Mass., and the owners have a commitment to the area where they and their families live. “Besides,” she adds, “it’s just the right thing to do.”
And that’s just how TSNE feels about it.