May 18, 2021: Tonight, Pittsburghers made history. For the first time, voters in Pittsburgh municipal politics have demanded change by replacing an incumbent Mayor running for re-election. For the first time, Pittsburgh Democrats have chosen a Black candidate for Mayor. For the first time, Pittsburghers have placed the fight for racial and economic justice at the center of politics.
On behalf of Pittsburgh’s nurses, hospital workers, nursing home workers, and home care workers, I congratulate Ed Gainey on his remarkable victory.
Members of our union know Pittsburgh is a great city that has yet to realize its promise. As the incumbent Mayor himself concedes, the story of Pittsburgh is a tale of two cities, a white Pittsburgh and a Black Pittsburgh. Gentrification has pushed many working class Pittsburghers out of the city, with a disproportionate impact on Black neighborhoods. Poor and working class people feel the weight of unaccountable and militarized policing, with Pittsburgh’s Black minority most harmed. The “eds and meds” economy has never replaced the upward mobility of good, family supporting, union jobs of the steel era, and Black workers who are over represented in Pittsburgh’s service sector have been denied opportunity.
At the intersection of racial inequity and economic disparity sits UPMC, the health system that is Pittsburgh’s biggest land owner that does not pay tax and its biggest employer that coerces hospital workers who try to organize a union.
For caregivers, this Pittsburgh Mayoral Primary Election held special significance and has been a cause of unprecedented mobilization. We saw in Ed Gainey a dedicated and consistent fighter for the rights of all working people, waging an uphill struggle to overturn an entrenched incumbent who championed corporate power at every turn.
I pay tribute to Ed’s campaign volunteers and all the community activists and trade unionists who joined together to make it possible. I am immensely proud that union caregivers made such an important contribution to the fight.
As Ed Gainey himself would be the first to remind us, no one election marks the end of the struggle for social change. We need to unite with our neighbors who may have supported other candidates. We must win the general election. We have to do the work in our workplaces and in the streets of our communities to ensure that Ed Gainey’s new administration has a powerful mandate to lead and implement change.
I pledge that SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania will be part of that ongoing effort to transform Pittsburgh into a place where everyone, no matter the name of their neighborhood or the color of their skin, can thrive.
-Matthew W. Yarnell, President, SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania