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.
Monday started with my iPhone alarm going off at 4:10 AM. I was told to be downtown at the Double Tree Hotel at 5:45 AM Turns out the only bus that would get me there in time left about 4:55. I got there with only a couple of minutes to spare, which was really good, considering the single digit temperatures that didn't improve much the rest of the day. When I talked to the driver and told him what my plans for the day were, he picked up the fare for me. The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85 was well represented at the rally.) I started the day handing out flyers at Children's Hospital during the shift change. But first we got our breakfast sandwiches in the van on the way over to that hospital. Primanti Brothers made the sandwiches, but got the order wrong, so instead of egg and cheese sandwiches, we got the more standard and Pittsburgh style sandwich of egg, slaw and french fries. I could have used some ketchup, preferably Heinz, but in this weather I ate first and saved any complaints for much later. The brothers and sisters from Philadelphia were not amused in the least!
After the flyer event we headed over to the United Steelworkers Building (USW for short) to meet with every one else marching to the U.S. Steeltower (USX for short). The number of cameras, video cameras and smart phones covering this event allowed me to stay focused on the yelling and chants, and dodging the holes in the road. For much of this march I stayed behind the AFL-CIO RV. Later in the day when I did try to do more than a simple text tweet, I experienced failures where my failed tweets were saved as drafts, which could only be accessed when a tweet failed to send. A real technological catch-22. My guess is the bandwidth was overwhelmed by the number of devices covering the event. The hashtag for the day was #upmcworkers. Put that hashtag into a twitter search or Facebook search and your browser window will be flooded with a lot of images of the Make It Our UPMC campaign. I'm not going to add photos from these news stories as those organizations have the right to collect whatever revenue they can from you visiting their websites. The Twitter photos might be in a different legal space, but I doubt they will add enough to my post to merit the effort.
When we arrived at the USX tower, the plaza in front of the building was 'closed', meaning some Plaza Closed signs were posted around the entrances, some yellow plastic tape was strung across access points and extra building security guards were stationed at the doors and in the plaza. But that was okay, we were allowed to take over the public sidewalk and the outbound lanes of Grant Street. On the sidewalks were four or five simple frame and plastic sheeting tents, one was the Workers tent, where UPMC workers hung around and made themselves available to the various media covering the event. The other tents were for food and hot drinks, information etc. There was an sturdier enclosed tent that served as the first aid station. The sidewalk also had a few gas generators to power the sound system for the stage, and there were at least 6 propane patio heaters, some of which we were able to light and huddle around for some comfort from the bitter cold. Clearly this rally was very well thought out. When my feet felt like two blocks of ice I opted to walk the short block to the Brugger's Bagel shop, get some coffee and warm up for a bit. The Dunkin' Donuts was right across the street, but was extremely crowded. I doubt the door stayed closed long enough to keep any heat in the store.
My itinerary was not very filled after doing the flyers at the hospitals and the march from the USW building to the USX tower. The one thing I was scheduled for was the 10:30AM PIIN rally and march from the Hill above the Consol Energy Center (Home of the Pittsburgh Penguins). Because of the severe cold, the rally had been moved from Freedom Corner to the St. Benedict the Moor church across the street. This was a really excellent break from the rally in the street. Wooden pews and Gothic architecture and a chance really warm up made arriving a bit early a no-brainer. I did bother to take a couple of pictures with my iPhone.
The walk back to the USX Tower was easier than the walk to the PNG office, we knew where we were going, and our chanting was buoyed by hearing the other groups who arrived back before us. The numbers in the afternoon continued to swell as the UFCW workers got off their early shifts and joined us in mass, and the teachers of the PFT got off work and managed to find their way downtown. I'm sure there were many other labor organizations that had members at the rally. I took a picture of the Stagehands union with their large yellow banner. After about an hour of ruckus by the USX tower, we were told to occupy the intersection of 6th and Grant. The fine officers of the Pittsburgh police aided us by cutting of traffic and clearing the intersection using a motorcycle with a side car. After blocking the intersection for maybe ten minutes we reformed our ranks and prepared to march back down to the DLCC for our dinner break. To say we caused some major traffic problems in rush hour would be an understatement. While there was some live music there, the food was passed out before we entered the building. I ate my burrito had some water, chatted briefly with Nina, the head of the PFT, and caught a bus to the Pittsburgh Board of Education where my wife was chairing a meeting.
I've been trying to finish this update while typing in the UPMC cafeteria dining room. I came in early today to participate in a hastily organized response to the Employee Appreciation Day event. I'm going to declare victory and post this and hope to get the rest of the story up this weekend. Today UPMC is giving out water bottles (free advertising for them, really cheap water bottles for us!) and star cookies for their 'stellar' employees. It is so condescending I can hardly stand it. If there is any doubt that I'm not a bad ass Union organizer, I'll let the YouTube clip speak for itself...