An update on the legal status regarding the civil disobedience action I took part in on 7/31/14. The Summary Trial is scheduled for 11/24/14. And I have some new pictures given to me by one of the chief SEIU organizers. That he went to the trouble of getting actual prints made, and paper frames for them and then mailing them to my home address says a lot. No, he’s not that old (younger than I am by at least a couple of decades!), just a little old fashioned, which is actually really nice and refreshing. So much so that I broke open the box of antique thank you notes from our wedding and sent him a handwritten thank you note via snail mail. Below is one of his favorite shots, the irony of my choice of shirt was not lost on him!
On August 28, 2014 I participated in the protest picket of the Rivers Casino on the Northshore of Pittsburgh, next to Heinz Field and the Carnegie Science Center. This event was well attended, probably a couple of hundred protestors from the usual community activist groups (Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network, One Pittsburgh, Action United, Fight Back Pittsburgh, and Jack Shea of the Allegheny County Labor Council), SEIU Health Care PA and 32BJ, USW, UFCW, PFT the CWA and some other unions that I haven’t seen before. There are a lot of news stories about this fight between the billionaire owner Bluhm and Unite Here Local 57. Links to news articles and some pictures follow.
Unions look to casinos for growth opportunities
Rivers Casino workers continue fight for union
As for the annual Labor Day parade in Pittsburgh, I lucked out and was given the Labor Day paid holiday. The scheduling worked out in my favor, and the irony that UPMC even gives Labor Day paid holiday status is not wasted on the Ironic Chef, considering their extensive ongoing union busting campaign. This years parade featured some added political controversy, in that the sponsors of the parade, the Allegheny County Labor Council disinvited siting PA Gov. Tom Corbett(R) from joining in the parade over the objections of a few unions that still support the Republican Governor. The Labor Council won the fight and had Democratic candidate for PA Governor Tom Wolf join in the parade and in the news conference/rally held in the USW building after the parade.
Shrinking organized labor to show political clout in Pittsburgh parade
Political Undertones Apparent At Annual Labor Day Parade
Labor Day Parade draws thousands of marchers, election-year politicians
Regardless of the political controversy and divided political support among some unions, the parade went off without a hitch. The light drizzle of the morning gave way to scattered clouds and a good deal of sunshine. The theme of this years march, as provided by the SEIU organizers, was Pittsburgh Workers Rising. Last year we took over the parade on the theme of UPMC workers alone. After another year of activity we have broadened the movement to include the Fight for $15 fast food workers, adjunct professors, women workers and more. I took some pictures of last years signs and one of this years signs to illustrate the difference.
The news event after the parade was kicked off by the official host of the parade, Allegheny County Labor Council President Jack Shea. Jack never fails to entertain when called upon to speak publicly, even making what would otherwise be a droll recitation of a list of VIP’s getting recognition for their presence, enjoyable. I took pictures of each speaker, though I failed to take good notes on their names, figuring there were plenty of other press people there to fill in any gaps in my memory and spelling. Looking at the pictures now I see they aren’t great, and I don’t think they offer any value to justify the added bandwidth of this diary. We got to hear from a Point Park adjunct professor, where the adjuncts successfully managed to organize under the United Steelworkers, and she was genuinely touched to be speaking in her new home. She ended by noting that her students make no distinction of her status, they all call her “professor.” When she ended, Jack let her go with the promise that he’d never call her an adjunct professor again. The other worker allowed to speak was Jarrell Reeves, a floor tech working at UPMC Shadyside. He was coming off an appearance on the local CBS Sunday morning local talk show, where he was able to hold his own against the quoted press releases the anchors were forced to use in the absence of any UPMC spokesperson. He did have help from 32BJ Vice President Gabe Morgan on the show. He had to fly solo at the USW conference, and did really well. After that AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka took the lectern and practically brought the house down. Trumka lauded Pittsburgh as a leading light in the new labor movement, that people across the nation are seeing what is happening here and learning form our example. I really felt bad for Tom Wolf, who had to follow that act, and to his credit, Tom didn’t even try to stir our emotions any more, but instead made an appeal to our intellects, to our innate sense of fairness. I hope he manages to work on his rhetorical skills before engaging in the three debates with Gov. Corbett. That Wolf is capable of running a first class media campaign was demonstrated in the Democratic primaries. It may be our job to do the door to door canvassing to ensure the Democratic base comes out and elects a new governor of PA.
So, what else happened in Pittsburgh recently? Oh, I almost forgot! I ran out today to add my voice and sign carrying abilities to the Fight for $15 campaign here in Pittsburgh. The action took place at the Wilkensburg McDonalds on Penn Ave. but we marched from the St James Church a few blocks away. There was a pretty good crowd, not quite as big as the Rivers Casino picket, probably 60-70 protestors all together. And I got to witness the arrest of eight workers by the Wilkensburg police. I sort of doubt it will be like the catch and release program run by the Pittsburgh Police on 7/31. They used real handcuffs and drove the protestors off in multiple squad cars. As they left, backup police from the neighboring boroughs of Edgewood and Penn Hills drove up to fill the vacuum of civil authority to ensure the remaining rabble rousers caused no more trouble. Just heard a news report on the local NPR station that there were more than one hundred supporters present, which is pretty impressive.
So that’s all for now, even my short updates seem to grow to fill a good sized diary! And as a teaser, the pickle I got myself into a couple of months ago is nearing some sort of conclusion. Whatever else happens, I have kicked the can up the chain of command as far as is possible. My SEIU organizers really appreciate my tight lipped approach to this issue, but believe me, by the time it is over I have a heck of a story to tell :)