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.
First, the brave nurses of the Altoona Hospital. They stood together when UPMC refused to bargain in good faith with them, wanting to make them work at the same rate and staffing levels as nurses at all other UPMC hospitals. So they called for a 1-day strike on February 11. UPMC tried to extend the strike by hiring scab nurses and locking the striking nurses out for an additional day. So on Tuesday, 2/12, around 200 Altoona nurses, UPMC workers and union organizers and our supporters gathered at the Steelworkers building in downtown Pittsburgh and marched to the Steeltower. It looks like UPMC bit off more than they could chew when they took on the SEIU and these nurses, for just this morning reports of a contract deal came through.
Here is the link for the PIIN action of this past Thursday. Since I had the day off and was able to make it there, thanks to a tireless organizer picking me up, I was given the opportunity to speak to the 100 or so people that braved the bitter cold and even more bitter winds. I continue to improve on my "stump speech", where I tell the story of when I lost my fear and began to speak truth to power. I've gotten really good feedback from everyone who heard me speak. A week earlier two pastors and one of my co-workers and member of the organizing committee also got arrested for trespassing and demanding to present their demands to Romoff. We continue to build community support and gain allies in our effort to bring the SEIU into UPMC. Rabbi Symons was one of the first people I got to sign a contact card for the Make It Our UPMC campaign, and it was then that he told me I was doing the right thing, and that he wanted to use PIIN as an ally in this struggle. That was two years ago, and it is paying huge dividends now.
While I am not currently involved in the legal side of this fight going on in the hearing rooms of the NLRB in the Federal Building in Pittsburgh, I have heard that things are going very well for the SEIU. I suspect the beating UPMC is taking on the legal front may have influenced their decision to come to terms with the SEIU nurses at the Altoona hospital. This is pure speculation on my part...
And for anyone who is going to be in Pittsburgh on Monday, March 3rd, avoid Grant Street unless you are willing to join the rally. I understand that there will be warming tents, food available, space in the Convention Center will be available, and a nearby church may be open for us as well. This will be an all-day rally, and the good people of faith from PIIN will be in an organized march from Freedom Square in the Hill to the Steeltower around 11:30 AM. I hear the weather is going to be frightful, so dress in layers! At this late date it may be difficult to get a room or get on a bus that is heading here for the rally. I'll be at the Steelworkers Building tomorrow night meeting and greeting with the people braving the storm to come to our rally. I understand buses are coming from all over, perhaps as far away as Wisconsin and Philadelphia. I've asked my SEIU organizer to make sure plenty of sign making materials available. Here is the sign I want to make -