Security Guards Protest Healthcare Costs

Health Care Protesters
Ritchell R van Dams

Protesters gather in Harvard Square yesterday to speak out against changes being made to Harvard security officers’ health care plans. Some officers took turns telling their stories. A few students were also present.

Protesting a sharp increase in their health insurance premiums, about 20 of Harvard’s security guards and a small contingent of the campus Student Labor Action Movement group rallied in Harvard Square yesterday afternoon to advocate more affordable health care coverage.

Harvard’s security staff—employed through a subcontract with Securitas Security Services USA, Inc.—were notified earlier this month that their “contribution requirement” towards their monthly premiums under the company’s health insurance plan would increase by roughly 60 percent.

Passing out leaflets and holding “Health Care for our Families” signs, the security guards called for the University to cover them under the less expensive Harvard Pilgrim or Harvard University Group Health Plan, both of which are open to University employees.

While Harvard officials say that Securitas, not the University, is directly responsible for the guards’ health care coverage, the security guards have been pleased with Harvard’s willingness to cooperate thus far, said Matthew Gulish, an organizer for the local branch of Service Employees International Union, which represents the security staff.

Union members will meet with Harvard’s Labor and Employee Relations Director William Murphy this morning to discuss the possibility of extending Harvard’s health care plans to the security guards.


Meanwhile, the union will urge Securitas to help defray the rising cost of health premiums, Gulish said.

“We’re determined to keep up the public pressure on Securitas,” Gulish said. “Our goal is to make sure that Securitas feels the same sense of urgency that the guards do.”

Securitas is currently looking into alternative plans and will present them next week, Gulish said. The company has also agreed to push back the deadline for security guards to enroll in Securitas’ health care plan for the coming year from Nov. 12 to Dec. 4.

Arun Malik, a security guard in Mather House and a steward for the union, told The Crimson last week that if faced with higher costs, over half of Harvard’s security guards may be forced to opt out of their health coverage through Securitas and rely either on their spouses’ insurance or forgo a health plan altogether.

Harvard students at the rally patted the guards on the back and wished them good luck, security guard Kumar Dange said.

“The students were very receptive,” Dange said. “They know that we’re part of their family.”

While the union continues to push for lower health insurance costs, SLAM has been in touch with Gulish and the security staff to publicize their efforts, according to SLAM member Lucas M.F. Giveen ’13.

“When we see vast changes that negatively impact the lives of the least represented members of this community,” Giveen said, “we feel we need to publicly advocate and represent their cause to those who will have the power to impact the situation.”