Magazine article Security Management

Picture-Perfect Strike Protection

Magazine article Security Management

Picture-Perfect Strike Protection

Article excerpt

PREPARING FOR AN ANTICIPATED work stoppage is a monumental task-one that involves many major and often costly decisions about problems that could seriously affect the future of the plant or company.

One such decision is whether to involve an outside, specialized security group that is experienced in handling strikes. Do you need such specialists? If so, in what numbers? When do you deploy them?

One question you may not think to ask is this: What are their evidence-gathering capabilities and experience? Often strike security groups are viewed as one-dimensional, as mere protectors of property and personnel.

Actually, a good strike team should be able to document, correlate, and present in judicial form evidence of violations of law and court orders, unfair labor practices, and strike-related violence and damage.

These strike team capabilities are often more valuable to management than the protection element. For example, imagine the following strike scene:

The picketers massed at the plant's main entrance have been unruly all day. The presence of the two burly security guards only seems to rankle the machismo of the male picketers. Epithets are yelled at guards and replacement workers. Marchers impede the entry and exit of vehicles by slowly walking their "On Strike " signs back and forth at the driveway.

The number of picketers has increased over the last half hour in obvious anticipation of a shift change. More than one baseball bat is spotted in the crowd, as well as several rocks. Several more large security guards are moved to the entrance gate to assist those vehicles and their anxious occupants, who will soon be departing the plant.

A chant is begun by the leader of what is clearly becoming a mob; the chant becomes a rallying cry for the now more than 40 excited men and women. Somewhere from the back of the crowd a rock is thrown, crashing squarely into the window of the guard booth. The crowd cheers, surges forward, and is well on its way to being out of control.

Within moments a vehicle from the plant pulls up to within 30 feet of the entrance area. Three small, older-looking men step out of the vehicle. Each is armed-two with VHS camcorders and one with a 35 mm camera with a wide-angle lens. Three large security guards move toward the photographers to provide protection as they begin to film the scene.

Like a balloon whose air has been let out, the mob is silenced by its anxious leader (a union official), and peaceful picketing is resumed. Frustrated faces turn away from the continuous filming. When the dozen vehicles begin to depart the plant, the crowd parts. With one eye toward the cameras, the picketers allow the vehicles to leave with little harassment.

This scene is typical of dozens I have witnessed while protecting personnel and property at plants and facilities embroiled in strikes. The power of the camera, both video and still, has often been shown to be a deterrent to violence and an effective way to document what actually occurred at a specific time, date, and place.

In 11 months of strike-related documentation in the coalfields of southwest Virginia in 1989 and 1990, my company's Asset Protection Team shot more than 50,000 still photographs of strike-related incidents, violence, and damage. One thousand eight rolls of film were processed for evidence. Untold miles of videotape were shot from stationary positions, convoyed vehicles and helicopters. These photographs were coordinated and presented as evidence in civil, criminal, and National Labor Relations Board court proceedings.

If we took 50,000 photographs of incidents, violence, and damage, one might speculate that the photographs weren't much of a deterrent. However, these photographs, coupled with incident reports and testimony, resulted in $64 million in fines levied against the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) in state court and $1 million in federal court fines. …

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