Unionization of security forces at the area's five large universities and colleges moved a step closer to reality recently when George Washington University and the special police that patrol the campus signed a three-year, open-shop contract.
In December 1973, the Allied International Union of Special Police and Law Enforcement Officers signed a contract with Gallaudet College, the first contract with a metropolitan area university. Since then the union, which changed its name to the Federation of Special Police and Law Enforcement Officers, has negotiated contracts with Howard and Georgetown universities, and on May 5 the GW security contract went into effect.
The GW contract took the longest to negotiate (more than a year), and during that time numerous charges by the union, alleging that GW was not bargaining in good faith, were filed with the National Labor Relations Board. There was a brief walk-out by the union.
The contract offers less than the union had asked in wages, medical and welfare provisions, and it provides an open union shop, which runs counter to the other area security unions. Both Gallaudet and Georgetown have closed shops, and the contract with Howard University contains a maintenance-of-membership clause.
The problems at GW that resulted in the organization of the union, according to patrolman Lewis Robinson, who helped organize the union there, are "poor working conditions, low pay, cheap medical benefits, poor training and a lack of communication between the guards and the security administration." In addition, he says, GW guards should carry guns because they are "game for all the derelicts that come through campus."
Guards at Howard and Gallaudet carry guns, but James Clifford, GW personnel director and chief negotiator for the university, says GW will "never" issue guns to its guards.
The union attempt to organize all the area campus security forces has been noted by GW both during and after the negotiations.
"Yeah, sure," said Clifford after negotiations ended, "just look at their record. They've got Howard, Georgetown and Gallaudet under their belt."
Catholic University Security Director William Nork said the union had tried to organize the security forces there two years ago, but did not succeed.
The effort to organize GW security guards was started more than three years ago by Robinson, who began scouting unions to organize at GW. All his efforts failed until the vote to authorize the federation on April 15, 1977.
Since being authorized to bargain, the New York-based union, which represents more than 5,000 persons, has been negotiating with GW. The university and the union agreed to a contract last December, but it was not ratified by members of the security force.
The contract signed this month is "basically the same contract turned down in December," according to Robinson and Clifford, in wage and medical benefit provisions. But the vote on the contract - 13 to 9 in favor with only 22 out of 46 guards casting ballots - did not signal strong support for the union.
"I'm very disappointed with the contract turnout and the lack of concern. This has been a long three years," Robinson said, "but at least we have a voice now."
"It's basically a good contract but we could have got a lot more if the men were really behind us all the way . . . "
Robinson said the right to arbitration and grievance was the major success of the negotiations and the final contract.
The union originally asked for a 50-cent per hour wage hike, increased medical, welfare and training benefits and a closed shop. The contract provides an immediate 25-cent wage increase, retroactive to July 1, 1977, and a 30-cent increase on July 1 of this year. The standard GW medical and welfare benefits were not increased from those all GW employees receive.
In negotiations, Clifford said he did not want to increase the union medical benefits for fear that "all of GW's other employees will want increased benefits."
The contract also includes a "no strike" clause which would prohibit a strike similar to the one the union staged in September.
Hy Jaffe, the union business manager, is upset at the exclusion of a closed shop.
"The contract offers an open shop which in no way prevents freeloaders from taking advantage of the union. There isn't even a service charge. We should get something because from the day that contract goes into effect we are the only ones responsible for the guards."
On the first day of fall registration last September, the union voted to walk off their jobs. The walk-out lasted 40 hours and the union reported that only 16 of the 48 guards left their jobs.
GW Vice President for Administration and Research Carl J. Lang said "the union's threat of a job action is not going to have an impact on our stand on these issues." He said he did not "perceive any influence" upon the daily workings of GW as a result of the walk-out.
After the walk-out ended the union filed an unfair labor charge against GW but withdrew it hours later because "the union did not want to muddy the waters" of negotiations, a union lawyer said.
In October, 30 guards who were against organizing a closed shop, signed a petition and sent it to Clifford. Another petition surfaced in February urging the guards to form their own union, but that effort failed.
"Many of the guards here," explained GW guard Pat Avellone, "are here for the free tuition benefits. I didn't support the strike because I am too far along in my masters' degree to lose my benefits."
Robinson said he tried to explain to the guards that it would be unlawful for GW to take away the education benefits. "I've read the labor law and that act is a retaliatory move and that is against the law."
Of the force's 48 guards, 17 were enrolled in classes at GW last semester. An average of 33 percent enroll in classes each semester, according to Jane Lingo, a GW administrator.
Clifford has repeatedly said there "have never been any threats of taking anyone's job or benefits away because they join a union."
GW officials and union leaders say there will be a settling period so that the union shop and the security administration can adjust to each other. Robinson said he will begin a membership drive this month. "Just come back in a month and I'll bet we'll have 85 percent of the force joining the union."