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Harvard University and Securitas retaliated against Walter J. Terzano, a guard who has worked for Securitas since 2009, Boston’s regional labor relations board alleged in a previously unreported complaint issued earlier this month.
A regional division of the National Labor Relations Board concluded in the Sept. 14 complaint and notice of hearing that Terzano was unfairly suspended and removed from his post on campus for protesting during Securitas’ 2022 union contract negotiations.
Because Harvard contracts nearly 300 guards through Securitas, it never directly employed Terzano, who initially filed a retaliation charge with the NLRB in April 2022.
Terzano had created protest signs and encouraged other guards to rally outside former University President Lawrence S. Bacow’s house in January and February 2022 amid a particularly contentious contract negotiation period for the guards’ union, Service Employees International Union 32BJ.
According to the complaint, less than a month later, Harvard Director of Facilities and Maintenance Kate Loosian “complained about Terzano” to Securitas representatives, and Securitas suspended him. Harvard then “directed that Terzano be removed” from campus on Feb. 21, 2022.
Securitas then “involuntarily transferred” Terzano out of Harvard Square on March 28, 2022, the same day the union voted to ratify their contract.
These actions, the NLRB alleges, were causally related to Terzano’s protest activity and constitute unfair labor practices taken to discourage other guards from engaging in similar forms of protest.
The complaint determined that Harvard and Securitas “have been interfering with, restraining, and coercing employees in the exercise of the rights” guaranteed under the National Labor Relations Act.
Securitas Area Vice President Christopher Connolly and Area Manager Alonzo B. Herring did not respond to multiple requests for comment, and Harvard spokesperson Jason A. Newton declined to comment for this article.
After a party files a charge against their employer or organization, NLRB agents investigate the charge by collecting evidence and, in some cases, affidavits from witnesses and involved parties. The regional director then evaluates the evidence and makes a decision related to the merits of the charge.
If the charge is not dismissed, withdrawn, or settled, the regional board issues a complaint and notice of hearing. Then, the board serves as the charging party’s representative, and respondents and other involved parties appear before an NLRB administrative law judge for a hearing.
In the complaint, NLRB Regional Director Laura A. Sacks set Terzano’s hearing for Jan. 9, 2024. Harvard and Securitas have until Thursday to respond to the complaint.
Terzano declined to comment for this article, citing the advice of his legal counsel.
Arun K. Malik, Terzano’s union steward, said Terzano’s transfer was intentional. Securitas moved Terzano from his original position at the Cronkhite Center, which houses Harvard’s admissions office, to a Harvard Art Museums storage facility in Somerville.
“He would be completely isolated from contact with all other guards so he would no longer be able to engage in union activities,” Malik said of the Somerville location.
“It was a dirty trick to discourage protest in support of higher wages and better working conditions, and his removal created a chilling effect in that others became fearful after witnessing what happened to him in broad daylight,” 32BJ shop steward Michael A. Nowiszewski wrote in a statement.
According to Malik, Terzano’s ban from campus was lifted four days after the contract was ratified.
“Moving Walter so abruptly did have a chilling effect on the ability to get more people interested in picketing,” Malik said.
Such physical restriction prevented him from participating in any on-campus union activities in the month leading up to the successful ratification vote.
The March vote was particularly important because an earlier version of the contract had failed in January, and both Harvard and the union were under greater pressure to successfully ratify a contract and conclude negotiations. Malik said the January vote was the first time guards had voted down a contract in Harvard’s history.
Frank Soults, a 32BJ SEIU spokesperson, and Roxana L. Rivera, assistant to the 32BJ president, did not respond to a request for comment.
Multiple Harvard guards said Terzano’s case could represent a significant turning point in their standing with the University as contracted workers, pointing to the fact that the complaint alleges that Securitas suspended Terzano after Harvard complained to the contractor.
“The fact that they were able to get the contractor — Securitas — to retaliate against Walter proves that Harvard is a co-employer of the guards,” Malik said. “This makes it a nationally significant story because if the NLRB can nail Harvard on this, then that means that all the universities that have outsourced their security guard services nationwide could be ordered to treat them as co-employers.”
“It would be the start of the avalanche of going after every corporation in America,” he added.
The NLRB General Counsel requested an order requiring Securitas and Harvard to rehire Terzano, offer him his former position, reimburse him for lost wages, and send him a written apology “for any hardship or distress caused.”
“Harvard should make it right, or at least Harvard should make Securitas make it right,” Nowiszewski said.
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