A group of activists is calling on Sacramento Regional Transit to sever ties with an international security firm that has been hit with allegations of human rights violations.
The newly formed group, called Sac Ride Human, has asked RT not to renew its contract with G4S Security Solutions, a British and Danish company, when the contract comes up for reconsideration this summer. G4S provides RT with security guards at light rail stations.
The Sac Ride Human group, which includes ministers, peace activists and labor groups, argues that G4S is complicit with the Israeli government in illegal incarceration and abuse of Palestinians, including children. G4S is a security contractor for Israel.
“These are our transit dollars and we want them spent with a company that is responsible, not one involved with human rights and labor rights violations, and violating the rights of children,” said Sac Ride Human organizer Maggie Coulter, who led an unsuccessful attempt several years ago to get the Sacramento Co-op to boycott Israeli products. “We also want to see a company that is not involved in privatized prisons.”
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Coulter said her group is not alleging abuses or problems with G4S’s work in Sacramento.
G4S spokeswoman Monica Lewman-Garcia, in an email, said allegations that G4S commits or supports human rights abuses “are categorically false.” She said her company is “applying the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights across all of our businesses,” and that its workers in Sacramento are trained in the company’s business ethics policies.
The company, reported to be the largest private security firm in the world, has provided security services for RT for eight years, supplementing RT’s security force, which is made up of officers from the Sacramento Police Department and Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department.
RT General Manager Mike Wiley said G4S has performed well for RT.
“They’ve done everything we’ve asked them to do,” he said. “They have performed quite well.”
Pressed by the Sac Ride Human group, however, RT’s Wiley said transit officials are looking into whether RT has the legal authority to expand its contract bid process to include analysis of larger social questions involving private contractors. It will bring the issue to the RT board Jan. 11.
RT attorney Tim Spangler said the agency’s legal authority is limited.
“It is unclear at this juncture what authority and justification the board would have to implement a policy that evaluates a bidder/proposer’s human rights record,” he wrote in an initial assessment.
Sacramento RT board chairman Jay Schenirer said he prefers to keep the agency focused on its efforts to improve local transit service.
“I don’t know that RT should be involved in international relations,” he said. “Going down this road becomes time off task. We have a lot of work to do at RT.”
G4S and other security companies took a recent hit in California. At the request of a coalition of black student groups, the University of California’s chief investment officer sold that system’s investments in companies that are involved in private prisons, including G4S. University officials offered a limited comment, saying the investments appear risky over time.