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There is a huge employer in the Pittsburgh area, UPMC, aka University of Pittsburgh Medical Center:

UPMC employs around 50,000 workers, making it the largest employer in Western Pennsylvania, and the second largest in the state. Since the closure or automation of many of Pittsburgh’s steel mills, private sector unions have seen their ranks diminish by two-thirds. Meanwhile, over the same time period, the city experienced an improbable renaissance, with gains in education and healthcare sectors leading President Obama to declare Pittsburgh a “knowledge city” during a 2008 campaign visit.

But the working poor of that institution are angry:
What was meant as a goodwill holiday gesture at a couple of UPMC hospitals has landed with a thud among some employees.

Fliers recently began appearing in UPMC Shadyside break rooms asking employees to contribute nonperishable food items to a food pantry "for UPMC
Presbyterian Shadyside associates in need."

Most years, such a posting might generate canned good donations, not controversy. But UPMC's nonclinical staff is involved in a union-organizing effort with the Service Employees International Union, and getting paid a livable wage is one of their primary demands -- a wage, presumably, that would not necessitate trips to a food pantry.

At least one Kossack, Ironic Chef, has commented on the situation at UPMC and the attempts to unionize UPMC workers:

I think it is safe to continue to chronicle our efforts to bring a union to UPMC (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, for those living outside the range of the media blanket of our region). Unfortunately I have not been keeping good notes, virtual or otherwise, so many great activities I have participated in can only be mentioned in passing. On the plus side, this means that my postings can be shorter and more to the point...
In another diary, Ironic Chef chronicles attending union-organizing meetings and the union-busting tactics of UPMC (my Wilkinsburg daughter verifies the worker harassment from other sources):
The union meetings ... have been enlightening, fun and encouraging. I have learned that with the $750 million in "excess revenues" that UPMC could do many things to benefit their frontline workers. I haven't been able to really crunch the numbers, but free healthcare and substantial pay increases seem intuitively reasonable. I would hate to have to do the math to find out how much of UPMC's "excess revenues" can be attributed to the employee contributions from payroll deductions, deductibles and co-pays. ...

I've also learned that UPMC has hired Labor Relations Institute, at a cost of $3000/day for each consultant on site. ... This could all be very interesting in light of the recent PA Supreme Court ruling that took power away from our bloated legislature and returned the decisions on public charities tax-exempt status to the Courts. Looks like no matter what happens, the next few years will be good for the lawyers in this state... What is surprising to me is that even with the expensive consultants, the managers continue to do things that are, if not completely illegal, tread right on the borderline. Just today I spoke with a nice young lawyer from the union about a polling incident that happened to me one morning. There were witnesses, and I'm giving names and affidavits and whatever it takes. And I didn't lie, either - told the boss that I would hate to be seen as insubordinate, and that I was for the union. Come what may, I have nothing to fear so long as I show up, do my job, tell the truth and maintain my honor.

What I do fear is that the union busting tactics of the LRI and UPMC are having an effect on our efforts to organize. ...

Oh dearie me. It isn't polite to call it union busting any more. The nicey nice and correct term is:
Union Avoidance
The Labor Relations Institute details how to "Poster Proof Your Company", as well as a neaty keen webinar on:
Important Links:
Click here to make Comments at

Download a Sample Comment to use as a model for your comments (please personalize)

Download LRI’s Comment to the DOL (warning: it’s a little snarky)
Others to Contact:

Contact Rep. John Boehner (Speaker of the House)

Contact Rep. John Kline (Education & Workforce Committee)

Contact Rep. Darrell Issa

Contact Rep. Steve King

Contact Sen. Jim DeMint
Additional Resources

Complete text of the DOL/OLMS press release announcing the rule

Vulnerability Assessment White Paper (our newest!)

Left of Boom White Paper

Interesting lineup of congresspeople.

SEIU has been in Pittsburgh for months:

Service Employees International Union Healthcare of Pennsylvania has increased its organizing efforts at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center hospitals, and the health system responded by holding a meeting with board members and union advocates, according to a Pittsburgh Business Times report.

SEIU has focused on UPMC since February. As one of the state's largest employers, UPMC has successfully avoided major unionizations in the past: In 1970, an employee vote for SEIU representation failed. It faltered again in 1998. About 395 of UPMC's 50,000 employees — from UPMC McKeesport Hospital and Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic — are currently represented by the union.

Originally posted to Karen Hedwig Backman on Wed Dec 12, 2012 at 12:26 PM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions, DKos Pennsylvania, and Pittsburgh Area Kossacks.

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