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Step One - work up your courage to participate fully in civil disobedience to support a cause you believe in. For me this was the march in downtown Pittsburgh on July 30, 2014. I diaried about this event in my Letter from a Pittsburgh Jail… For this to be successful, you must follow through and take the arrest, wait patiently for the paddy wagons to haul you and your compatriots off to the police station and allow yourself to be processed into the system. I can only recommend doing this in the fine city of Pittsburgh, where our peace officers managed a fine catch and release program on that day.

Step Two - Show up at the Courthouse on the date of your hearing. Our hearing was on Monday, November 24, 2014. Be prepared to be somewhat delayed by the fine ladies running the security at the entrance. They were not well prepared for all 28 defendants to enter at the same time after the pre-hearing rally outside the Courthouse. I had volunteered to be a spokesperson for the group should the judge ask for a statement. Fortune smiled on us that day, no statement was required, as our lawyer had managed to get the police Commander to make an appearance on our behalf. He testified that we were all extremely well behaved, and that he wished all his arrests were so easy. The lawyer and the judge then went over the plea agreement, 20 hours of community service to be done in the the next 60 days. Failure to complete the necessary hours will result in a guilty plea, a fine of $300, and court costs of $127, plus the charges will remain on my (permanent) record. By completing the community service the charges will get expunged from my record, though I guess that I will now have an empty record on file somewhere in the bowels of the judicial system…

Step Three - Do your community service, get the necessary letters from the non-profit organization(s) and turn them over to the fine lawyer. I’ve already wondered if working for the largest not for profit purely public charity in Allegheny County would qualify as community service, but I seriously doubt anyone at UPMC will be willing to provide a letter certifying my service. And a pay stub probably wouldn’t be any good either. But that’s okay, on the principle that “a penny saved is a penny earned”, I’ll be “paying” myself around $21.35/hr for doing something good for the community. (Which would be more than what is considered to be a living wage in our region.) As if bringing a union into a teaching hospital isn’t enough community service already! The religious leaders of the Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network got a better deal than we did - their judge decided protesting against UPMC was in itself sufficient community service. But then they were arrested while blocking UPMC property, while we kicked it up a notch and sat down in Grant Street, downtown, during rush hour traffic.

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This is no longer breaking news, I learned about the ruling this past Saturday night - the judge issued the ruling Friday night. For those who have not been following this labor struggle, UPMC stands for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. If you choose to follow beyond the orange thingy, I've learned more about this ruling and what a big deal it really is for the labor movement in this country.

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This will be my shortest diary entry ever. I want to suggest that everyone watch this video.

I met Jim and his wife a few years ago at a small coffee shop in Homestead. We were brought together by SEIU organizer Andrew C., who has since moved on to other work, I hope he's still with the SEIU.

I've heard that the latest settlement offer from UPMC was rather substantial, and not everyone was able to turn it down. I know that the SEIU is collecting money to support the workers fired for supporting the creation of a union at UPMC, but I doubt it is enough to make end meet.

I'm somewhat better off, I still have my job at UPMC. Earlier this year I got my Final Written Warning, which will eventually be one of my longer diaries, when I get around to it and the SEIU feels any disclosures I make won't damage the unfair labor charges pending at the NLRB.

This is why we fight so hard - to make the changes once thought impossible, the changes that will make history, the changes that will improve lives throughout our city and hopefully across the country. If you haven't watched the video yet, I urge you to take seven minutes out of your day and do so now. I chose to link to the Make it Our UPMC page instead of the Vimeo page since there are many other useful and informative links there.


The last week and a half have seen a a flurry of activity here in Pittsburgh. I would expect nothing less in a union town like Pittsburgh around the Labor Day holiday. Follow below for updates on the July 31, 2014 Civil Disobedience rally in downtown Pittsburgh, a rally for casino workers on the North Shore, the Labor Day Parade, again downtown, and the 9/4/14 Fight for $15 protest in nearby Wilkensburg, PA. Follow below the orange doodle for all the details!

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Sun Aug 03, 2014 at 02:26 PM PDT

Letter from a Pittsburgh Jail...

by Ironic Chef

is the title I thought of while facing the very real possibility of spending the night in Allegheny County's fine modern hoosegow. Fortunately, even though I participated in some fairly serious civil disobedience, matters did not progress that far. But more on that later. I've been delinquent in giving regular updates of the labor fights going on in my hometown, and there is some serious catching up to do. Follow below the orange swirly thingy for a much delayed update!

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This diary has been sitting in a Text-edit file that I started on 5/20/14. I've come to terms with the loss, which was pre-ordained by the awful gerrymandering done by the Pennsylvania Republicans. I've decided to finally post it after reading the great diaries about Tom Wolf, the winner of the Democratic primary for Governor of PA. There seems to be a strong community of politically astute Pennsylvanians here on Daily Kos who might enjoy a report from a foot soldier for the Democratic Party.

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I had managed to post an update much earlier on Tuesday, but due to some user error it has been deleted. I really shouldn't be messing with computers when I'm this tired. Live and learn, I suppose. It's for the best, really, since I am now free to spend enough time on this post to make a more polished presentation. (And it might be old news by the time I finish!)

For the new readers of my blog, the acronym UPMC has nothing to do with Michigan's Upper Peninsula, but rather stands for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

For the past few days I've been extremely busy with the Make It Our UPMC campaign. To get an idea of how rapidly things have been moving in the week leading up to this final big action, refer to my previous blog post. The events of Monday and Tuesday I'll lay out below the great large seraph thingy.

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Tonight I had a workers meeting at the Steelworkers Building in downtown Pittsburgh. I knew things had been moving very quickly in the past 6 weeks or so, but having it laid out by the organizers really brought the scope of what has happened this past week into focus.

So on Monday the NLRB hearings on the unfair labor practices continued, and are going really well for us, and not so well for University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. I'm really not at liberty to discuss the hearings for several good reasons. There are no links to provide and nothing to substantiate my claim. You'll have to trust me on it. When the ruling is released you can be sure that I'll bring the news to this site asap.

Tuesday saw us, with the help of the Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network, pack the Baptist Temple in the Hill District. It was at this gathering that the demand statement was written, and that 10 faith leaders determined to meet with CEO Jeffery Romoff or get arrested.

On Wednesday the Pittsburgh City Council held another hearing concerning UPMC and how they have been treating their service workers and abusing their not for profit status. This is a new city council, some of whom got direct help from me and other members of the movement. With our help, the Pittsburgh City Council has a majority of progressive Democrats to stand behind the new, progressive Mayor, Bill Peduto. In the words of a professor of mine, Larry Sabato, "politics is a good thing!"

When Thursday morning arrived, it was time to carry out the PIIN action that was planned on Tuesday. I believe that all 10 faith leaders were arrested, I don't know why the newspaper article only mentioned 9 getting arrested. I was there, it was the first action I could participate in on my scheduled day off.

And on Friday, while my wife and I spent the day driving to Wilkes Barre, to get our daughter for Spring break, four fellow workers, two who have been (illegally) fired, met with the U.S. Secretary of Labor. It is one thing to get the Feds involved in your case, but when the Secretary of Labor takes over an entire hour of his day to meet with four workers, well, I'm just flabbergasted.

So here it is, almost 10:30 on Sunday night. The workers meeting was held at the Steelworkers Building since we were also hosting a meet and greet for the supporters coming in from out of town. There was some food, and a smoking hot band playing. And a big crowd of out of town guests sprinkled with a fair number of local supporters. We had to duck out early, but I was encouraged to see the buses were still arriving when we left around 8. I counted at least eight busses around the building. I have to get some sleep - I'll be out early to give flyers out to workers at the 6AM shift change. Those who wish can follow me on twitter @gskiii_15217. It looks like the worst of the storm has passed, roads aren't that bad. And the new patches on my favorite pair of boots look like they'll hold up for a day. I have my talking points, lots of hand warmers, I'll pack the charger for the iPhone and catch a really early bus downtown.


Sat Mar 01, 2014 at 02:25 PM PST

A short note from W. PA

by Ironic Chef

I hoped to post this before going out to the Allegheny County Democratic Committee Jefferson-Jackson dinner this afternoon. As usual, though, I waited too long to start and had to put off the finishing touches until after the luncheon.  I've been pretty busy as of late, and I'm just getting started. I have marched with the Altoona nurses as they protested the unfair labor practices of UPMC, who after buying their hospital last year proceeded to try and break their union. I've gone on canvas drives to gain support for our March 3rd Rally, and on the same day gone out to collect signatures to get Erin Molchany on the ballot for the 36th PA legislative district. This past Thursday I braved the bitter cold and stood with the brave religious leaders of the Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network and their supporters as 9(!) of them were arrested for trespassing at the US Steeltower while attempting to deliver their declaration to University of Pittsburgh Medical Center CEO Jeffery Romoff. Below the Orange curly ellipse thingy I will provide some links and a little more detail.

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Last week I spent most of Thursday and all of Friday at the Bi-annual Convention of SEIU Healthcare PA in Lancaster, PA. What is remarkable is that I’m not even a union member, yet. The Union was incredibly generous in inviting me and around 17 other members of the UPMC (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center) to attend - paying for a bus and most all of our food and lodging. It was quite an experience, to say the least, and I’m not sure I can fully expound the impact it has had on me after only a days rest. But I have to do something, and will be happy to amend this post as needed.

So, you want to see a progressive grassroots organization that can put boots on the ground to support the causes we find important, and protest those who fight against those causes? We are that group! You want to see more and better Democrats in office, supporting progressive causes in State and local government? In Western PA, we have them, too! How about an organization that will put boots on the ground, going door to door, to explain the benefits of the ACA to those that are most affected by the changes the law brings? SEIU Healthcare PA is that organization, we will be the warriors for quality healthcare for all. Follow below the orange cheese doodle of Kos for a more detailed explanation of those two days.

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While my diary frequency has dropped to the seldom level, I have managed to keep my comments snappy enough that the powers at DKos have seen fit to make me a trusted user. Coming up with comments off the top of my head is easy, posting new diaries requires a lot more effort. Especially when a lot of the effort involves actually doing something worth writing about. Since it is now 12;21 AM on 9/8/13, I guess it is safe to say that yesterday I joined in something that is worthy of such an effort. Yesterday the City of Pittsburgh got a bone fide labor rally and march, less than a week after we had the second largest Labor Day parade in the country. Follow below the orange squiggle for the scoop...

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A couple of hours ago the SEIU lawyer walked the signed settlement papers into the NLRB offices here in Pittsburgh, PA. Read on below to see just how complete this victory is! (For the uninitiated, I'm referring to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center - anyone living in the Western Pennsylvania area knows this)

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