Workers at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) have been facing one of the most aggressive anti-union campaigns that we’ve seen in recent history. But the strength of workers who are speaking out has been moving the entire city of Pittsburgh to action. During the last few months, UPMC workers have had elected officials, gubernatorial candidates, labor and community leaders and residents from all parts of the city joining them in their efforts to stand up to UPMC. Lending their voices, experiences and photos to an effort to bring attention to what’s going on for workers inside UPMC’s work sites across the region, billboards, bus shelters and online ads appealed to people to “Stand up to UPMC” with workers. And they did.
Pittsburgh United issued a report that brought to light the low standards that UPMC is creating, and how it’s holding back the entire economy and shrinking rather than strengthening the middle class.
On Labor Day, the parade of thousands led with a “Stand with UPMC workers” banner, held by Central Labor Council President Jack Shea, UPMC workers Ron Oakes and Jim Staus. Dozens of other unions carried placards, and standards to stand in solidarity with the workers of UPMC.
Then, likely Democratic nominee for Mayor Bill Peduto shared his support with a room full of UPMC workers, and a host of gubernatorial candidates joined in!
Only one week later, on Saturday September 7th, something extraordinary happened in Pittsburgh. Hundreds of people came together to stand up to UPMC and demand that the healthcare giant stop bullying the workers, patients, and taxpayers of Pittsburgh.
Faith and labor leaders, elected officials, UPMC workers, bus riders, teachers, patients, taxpayers and students demonstrated their unity and resolve when they peacefully and silently sat down as one on Fifth Avenue right in front of UPMC’s flagship hospital.
Just last week, after weeks and weeks of investigation, Region 6 of the National Labor Relations Board — the federal agency charged with protecting worker’ rights — issued a second historic complaint in a year against our city’s largest employer, UPMC. The complaint alleges 47 instances of harassment, intimidation, discrimination and illegal firings, including:
- Firing workers for their union activity — including Ron Oakes, who was fired for a second time just three weeks after being reinstated as part of UPMC’s settlement of the first complaint.
- Calling the police on and threatening to arrest workers who were talking about the union while at lunch.
- Retaliating against workers who testified at the Labor Board.
As a response to the new NLRB complaint the Pittsburgh City Council unanimously passed a Will of Council in support of the workers of UPMC and called on UPMC to put an end to its anti-union campaign.