We are the 99%

March 4, 2014

More Than A Thousand Rally For Better Wages...

...and The Trib complains about the traffic.

So interesting to see the differing coverage of yesterday's SEIU rally downtown.

Here's the first two paragraphs from the Huffingtonpost's coverage of the protest:
Hundreds of demonstrators poured into downtown Pittsburgh Monday to protest low wages at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, escalating a two-year showdown between labor groups and the area's largest employer.

The Service Employees International Union has been trying to organize service workers at the hospital for at least two years. Joined by steel and mine workers on Monday, pro-union employees of UPMC marched to the hospital's headquarters at the U.S. Steel Tower with some specific demands: a hospital minimum wage of $15, the elimination of employees' health care debts to the hospital and recognition of a union.
First two paragraphs from the Pittsburgh Business Times:
Hundreds of protesters gathered Monday morning in downtown Pittsburgh for a rally in front of UPMC headquarters in their attempts to get better wages and benefits for the health system's employees.

At 8:45 a.m., there were about 1,000 people who gathered in front of the U.S. Steel tower headquarters of UPMC and there were several hundred others across several blocks of Grant Street who were on their way to the site. A block of Grant Street, one direction between 6th and 7th streets, was closed off for the march.
And this is how the news division at Scaife's Tribune-Review framed the rally:
Hundreds of protesters obstructed rush-hour traffic and forced the Port Authority of Allegheny County to juggle Downtown bus schedules for hours on Monday, and union organizers promised more action on Tuesday.

They're waging a vocal campaign against health care giant UPMC, which issued no statements about the disturbance.

Observers and Downtown workers ranged from sympathetic to cynical as they reshuffled workday routines to get around the sometimes-rowdy crowd, which Pittsburgh police estimated at 1,000 to 1,200 near its midday peak outside the U.S. Steel Tower. Organizers vowed to return but didn't specify plans.
The reason for the rally was carefully tucked into the "this rally's causing ba-a-ad traffic" piece's fifth paragraph:
Union activists who want better pay and unionization for UPMC service workers began assembling before 9 a.m., when they led a march from the Boulevard of the Allies to UPMC headquarters at U.S. Steel Tower.
That's it.  That's all they said about why the rally took place.  Of course the very next paragraph goes back to what the Trib wants you to know:
They apparently broke the terms of their city event permit, which allows them to demonstrate through 6 p.m. Tuesday on public sidewalks outside U.S. Steel Tower. Union representatives repeatedly declined to answer questions for publication.
I'll cut back to the Huffingtonpost for a better description of the issues:
SEIU and its allies have cast the UPMC campaign as an effort to improve pay and standards on the bottom rungs of Pittsburgh's booming health care industry. In recent years, health care jobs have largely replaced manufacturing jobs as the core of the region's economy, with one in five private-sector workers now employed in an area hospital, according to the Los Angeles Times. Despite the many good-paying jobs at UPMC facilities, a number of the service workers -- cafeteria employees, for instance -- are earning wages that put them near or below the poverty line, according to SEIU.
And the P-G:
The demonstration was part of an ongoing battle for higher wages for UPMC blue-collar workers, including cooks and custodial staff, unionization, and the elimination of UPMC medical debt for its employees.

In union news releases, UPMC workers say their pay amounts to "poverty wages."

Christoria Hughes, identified by the union as a six-year UPMC employee who relies on subsidized housing and food banks to support her grandchildren, said in a statement that the protest wasn't intended to "disrupt anyone's commute."

"We're out here because we can't put food on our tables even though we work for UPMC," she said.

Joining in the demonstration were teachers, grocery workers, leaders and congregants from the Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network, members of Pittsburgh City Council and other local politicians, Action United and the University of Pittsburgh's Students in Solidarity with UPMC Workers, who organized a small march of their own in Oakland. Some demonstrators were bused in from across the state and elsewhere.
And yet the Trib's news (not the op-ed page) division wants you, instead, to know about how the protest snarled downtown traffic.

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