Protesters demand Academy drop ‘irresponsible’ security firm
Outside the 86th annual Academy Awards nominee luncheon, demonstrators protest the Academy’s use of security firm Security Industry Specialists.
About 40 security officers and community members rallied at the 86th annual Academy Awards nominee luncheon on Monday in hopes of getting the Oscars to stop using Security Industry Specialists as its security provider for the annual event.
A group of about five security officers attempted to hand-deliver a signed letter from community leaders asking the Academy to reevaluate its decision to hire SIS, said security officer Robert Branch.
“SIS is an irresponsible security firm that falls short of the high standards the Academy has traditionally set for the Oscars,” Service Employees International Union wrote in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Los Angeles Times.
SEIU, which provided logistical support for the event, said the First United Methodist Church, CLU-LA and Community Labor Environmental Action Network were among those who signed the letter, which was addressed to Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Cheryl Boone Isaacs. The organization did not have an official tally of signatures yet.
SEIU spokesman Peter Feng said “a delegation of security officers were able to get in front of Cheryl Boone Isaacs at the luncheon and offer her the letter but she physically did not take it so we were unable to deliver the letter personally.”
SIS provides security for companies such as Apple, Twitter, EBay and Google. According to the company’s website, the average wage for hourly SIS security officers in Silicon Valley is $19.77 per hour. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the average wage of a security officer in California is $13.33 per hour.
However, SIS has been the subject of numerous lawsuits by current and former officers “who have accused the company of engaging in wage theft, racial and gender discrimination and worker spying and intimidating,” according to the letter.
Branch, a SEIU member, said security officers decided to rally because they are “committed to raising standards in their industry.”
“The Academy supports good jobs, so why should security officers be left out of that?” Branch told The Times. “We just want the Academy to provide a responsible contractor that will uphold high standards for security officers. We feel that the Academy should rely on experienced, full-time officers, not part-time workers, to protect the public.”
Concerns over SIS were heightened in December after National Public Radio published a story that found more than half of the security firm’s employees work part time with no benefits. But Branch said security officers in Los Angeles have been attempting to stop companies for at least a year from using SIS in the city.
However, SIS states on its website that for the last three years, SEIU has “targeted” the firm and used “harassing tactics,” such as telephone calls at odd hours of the night, to “convince SIS employees to join their union.”
“Not a single SIS employee has ever voted to join a union,” SIS states on its website. The security firm did not immediately respond to interview requests.
“We are not attempting to unionize SIS officers, although we believe that all security officers should have a say on the job,” SEIU’s Feng told The Times.
Branch said he thinks security officers don’t express their concerns out of fear of losing their jobs.
“Fear has a way of causing you to sometimes not stand up the way you would like,” Branch said. “Some years ago I was a non-union security officer and it was fearful for me too.”
More than 150 nominees, including A-list actors and directors, were expected to attend the luncheon at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills.
The 2014 Academy Awards, to be hosted by comedian Ellen DeGeneres, will air on March 2. Officials at the Academy did not immediately respond to email or phone inquiries.
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