PIIN Protests for a Living Wage at UPMC Pittsburgh

Posted by: Gordon on 2/27/2014
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It was cold and snowy for a protest this morning in front of the corporate offices of UPMC, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. That did not stop the police from arresting 9 clergy leaders from Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network and Ana Garcia-Ashley from Gamaliel when they tried to go inside the office building where UPMC CEO Jeffrey Romoff works.

"We weren’t quite sure exactly how things would transpire," Rev. John Welch, PIIN leader and Gamaliel board member, told a reporter from TV station KDKA after the action. "We had an inkling that they would not let us in the building, as cold as it was we were hoping they would, but none the less they didn’t. So we were prepared to adjust accordingly.”

PIIN's Love Thy Neighbor campaign

We have all repeatedly read, studied and discussed the story of the Good Samaritan. PIIN clergy recently launched their Love Thy Neighbor campaign because they believe the Pittsburgh region is in desperate need of Good Samaritans who will not look at those hurting in our community and “pass by on the other side.”

While the group sees Love Thy Neighbor as a multi-year campaign, the initial focus is the need for Pittsburgh’s largest employer, UPMC, to pay their service workers a living wage. More details about UPMC are at the website of the group Make It Our UPMC.

Although it is technically a nonprofit corporation, some advocates have compared UPMC to Wal-mart for its pay and personnel practices.

Yesterday's action ratcheted up the pressure, and a march planned for Monday should keep things going.

"There was tension today," Charlie Deitch, a reporter for Pittsburgh's City Paper told the CBS radio reporter on the same show that featured Welch. "I've covered pretty much all of these [UPMC protests] in the past 18 months since the unionization effort began and there was something besides the chill--definitely something different in the air today."

After the action UPMC released a statement that their starting pay of $11 an hour is more than the average starting salary in the Pittsburgh market.

"They're comparing atrocious wages to abysmal wages [that] put people below the poverty line even after a 40-hour work week," Welch responded. "Many of these workers sit in our congregations. We preach how we are to love thy neighbor, and fairness and justice. For us to preach that and not live that would be hypocritical ... so we'll be in this fight for as long as UPMC wants to keep the fight going."

More news coverage from today:
Download a flyer for the Day of Action planned for Monday, March 3 here.
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