EXCLUSIVE: In 2014, the Service Employees International Union hounded the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for using Culver City-based security company Security Industry Specialists (SIS), which the union said discriminates against race and gender. The union came out against SIS after several lawsuits charged the security company with “engaging in wage theft, racial and gender discrimination and worker spying and intimidating” workers. This year, SEIU again is condemning AMPAS for using the company, especially in a year where diversity is at the forefront.
“(SIS has) not improved in the past two years,” said Stephen Boardman, a spokesman for SEIU-USWW (United Service Workers West). “We have continually reached out to AMPAS and so far to no avail, but we are hoping that with their renewed commitment to increase the diversity of the Academy and the voters, that they will look at all their contractors, including their security contractor, and make a change to (hiring) a responsible company — one that meets our standards in the way they treat their workers, recognize their right to organize, embraces diversity and doesn’t discriminate with either race or gender.”
In 2014, the SEIU protested at the Oscar Nominees Luncheon and, at the same time, tried to deliver a letter to AMPAS president Cheryl Boone Isaacs asking for a change. Ironically, the union that reps security guards were prevented from delivering the letter by security guards. This year, they have reached out as well but they said their voices have gone unheard. AMPAS had no comment concerning this issue, and SIS did not return calls.
SIS handled the Oscars last year and also was responsible for security at the Super Bowl this year, so the company obviously is quite capable of handling big events. But that’s not the issue, said Boardman, adding that the union would like to see the AMPAS boarddo the right thing and take seriously the problems of racial and gender diversity and change out its security firm.
SIS used to be the largest security contractor in Silicon Valley, Boardman said, but in light of the union’s heavy campaigning in the region, Google, Facebook and Apple dropped SIS contracts, and the companies took their security in-house. The SEIU-USWW represents both security officers and janitorial service workers. The union has a membership of 45,000; about 19K of those are security officers in California.
Whether SEIU-USWW members will demonstrate at the Oscars this year remains to be seen, but the LAPD is ready for any protesters. They will, like the general public, have to stand behind a fenced perimeter.
Because of the lack of diversity in the nominations this year — for instance, the exemplary cast of Beasts of No Nation was overlooked, as was the critically acclaimed Straight Outta Compton, which received only one nomination for writing — the 88th Academy Awards ceremony is one most controversial in recent memory.
The show is being produced by Reginald Hudlin and hosted by Chris Rock, so there is racial diversity inside the production of the show itself but that was not reflected in the nominations.