By Ayana Jones
PHILADELPHIA — City Councilmember Cherelle Parker has introduced a resolution supporting local federal security officers who are allegedly facing discrimination from their employer.
The security guards are alleging that their employer, Triple Canopy Inc., promotes “an atmosphere of harassment by demanding that workers prove their religion and chronic medical conditions every four months” to keep their facial hair.
The Department of Homeland Security contracts Triple Canopy, which is a division of Constellis, to provide security services throughout federal buildings in the Philadelphia area.
The majority Black and Latino workforce of nearly 250, who protect the IRS, Social Security offices, federal courts, immigration, FEMA and customs house offices say they have received write-ups that escalate to termination of employment.
“These men must receive the same protections and must not be subjected to the discrimination that they are enduring while working for this firm Triple Canopy,” Parker said during Thursday’s virtual Council meeting.
“They cannot and should not be written up and ultimately terminated from employment, simply for exercising religious freedoms that should all be accorded.”
The contractor allegedly violated the Philadelphia CROWN Act, spearheaded by Parker, which became law in November 2020. The law clarifies that unlawful discrimination on the basis of race includes discrimination based on characteristics commonly associated with race, such as hair texture and hairstyles. CROWN is an acronym for “Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair.”
“This fight is about more than just hair,” Parker said. “This is about us accepting who we are and loving who we are and no one should face discrimination because they are comfortable in their own skin and/or religion.”
This comes as City Councilmembers Mark Squilla and Jaime Gauither, state Reps. Danilo Burgos, Morgan Cephas, Joseph Hohenstein and Chris Raab have announced their support for the security officers as they delay a strike to meet with their employer over charges of discrimination.
The workers are supported by 32BJ SEIU, the largest property service workers union in the country.
“Constellis reached out to us last night for the very first time since officers started this fight,” Daisy Cruz, 32BJ SEIU Mid-Atlantic district director said in a news release Thursday.
“Officers have agreed to continue working, and not walk off the job on strike while they try to work through their list of demands with the company,” she said. “We’d like to come to a resolution, but make no mistake, officers are ready to strike if necessary should these very serious issues of discrimination and threats to their livelihood continue.”
Ayana Jones is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.
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