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'A Union Aims at Pittsburgh’s Biggest Employer'

The New York Times’ Jeff Swensen does a fair amount of work in this piece both explaining and contextualizing the current battle between UPMC, Pittsburgh’s largest employer and one of the largest employers in the state, and its service workers who are trying to unionize through the Service Employees International Union.

SEIU is trying to organize about 10,000 UPMC employees to ask for the base rate of pay to be raised to $15 an hour from an average of $12.81. They are asking for this raise so more of the UPMC employees who work as janitors and in hospital cafeterias are able to support their families.

The article quotes Rabbi Ronald Symons of Temple Sinai: “UPMC is a world-class medical facility, we’re asking them to strive to be world-class in their labor relations,” said Symons, who was arrested with others in February for refusing to leave UPMC headquarters, insisting on meeting with the company’s CEO. “We know that you can’t raise a family on those wages.”
 
However, not everyone in Pittsburgh is sympathetic to these workers.

“People don’t like UPMC in this town,” Marty Griffin, of KDKA-TV and KDKA-AM. But he said the demand for $15 an hour gets little sympathy. “People say, ‘If they want $15, they should go back to school.’ ”

Even Mayor Peduto had something to add: “It’s the largest employer in the state of Pennsylvania,” he told Greenhouse. “They have the means to help their workers break the cycle of poverty and join the middle class. They probably have more of an ability to do that than any other entity.”
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