Beverly Hills, CA – Controversy surrounded Hollywood’s premier awards show as activists stormed the Academy Awards Nominees Luncheon in protest of the Academy’s decision to employ an irresponsible security contractor, Security Industry Specialists (SIS). Google recently cut ties with SIS, amid allegations of poor working conditions. SIS is also under federal and municipal investigation for denying its security officers the freedom to advocate for improvements on the job, and violating their right to paid sick days.
Despite these questionable practices, the Academy renewed its partnership with SIS for the 10th year in a row—a blow for the predominantly black and Latino workforce that face adverse working conditions when contractors like SIS are chosen. The decision adds more fuel to the controversy surrounding the lack of opportunities in Hollywood for people of color. The absence of actor nominees of color at this year’s 87th Academy Awards has put an exclamation mark on systemic issues dealing with race in Hollywood.
“What happened to opportunity for all in Hollywood?” says Kawana Anderson, a black security officer from Los Angeles. “L.A. Security officers united in 2006 to improve industry standards and provide our families with a fair shot. We can’t let the Academy take that away.”
The sparks flew at last year’s award show over similar concerns that SIS was impeding the success of workers who are vital to Hollywood’s prosperity. Numerous current and former employees have accused SIS of engaging in wage theft, intimidation, spying and racial and gender discrimination—a particularly troubling charge in an industry where the majority of security officers are people of color.
Los Angeles security officers formed a union in 2007 to put an end to these harmful practices and give workers a voice to advocate for themselves. Over the years they’ve helped professionalize the industry and create stable enough jobs for workers to take care of their kids and prepare them for a better future. In one case, the largest security contractor in Los Angeles cut its turnover rate in half by working with SEIU United Service Workers West to keep experienced officers on the job.
Many security officers feel these job improvements are threatened when influential organizations like the Academy employ irresponsible security contractors.
“The Academy can bring fairness back to Hollywood by choosing a responsible security contractor that treats workers with respect and gives everyone the opportunity to succeed,” added Anderson.
Pictures from action can be accessed online at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/seiu_usww/sets/72157650548407776/