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Faith Leaders Arrested Again At UPMC Protest

An officer warned the Rev. Rodney Adam Lyde that he would be arrested again if he took part in the rally at the U.S. Steel Building Thursday.

Lyde – who had already been arrested last week – politely thanked him for his concern, but he had every intention of staying.

By the end of the protest, he had been arrested with several other faith leaders for trying to enter the building to speak with UPMC CEO Jeffrey Romoff.

The rally was part of the Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network’s new campaign called Love Thy Neighbor.

The campaign aims to have Romoff lift wages for lower-level UPMC workers – especially those in service and support positions.

“So that the people at UPMC can afford a way of life that’s quality,” Lyde said. “So that they can in fact move into a level out of poverty into the middle class.”

He said he thinks it is immoral to have people work 40 hours a week but only pay them enough to barely make ends meet. They are asking that every worker in the system be paid a "living wage" of $15.00 per hour.

“We know that the quality of our living, the quality of our city will go up when everyone who’s hard working can afford to have a good quality of life,” Lyde said.

UPMC notes that while the average pay for it's service workers falls below the requested $15.00 per hour at $12.81 and hour, the starting wage of $11.00 is well above the $9.48 per hour paid by other employers in the region hiring workers for similar jobs.  Further, UPMC argues that it also provides health, sick leave, and retirement benefits, which is unusual for for such jobs.  Those benefits are valued at an additional $21.00 per hour.

The protesters complain that the fringe benefits are not good enough. 

Around 200 people attended PIIN’s community hearing Tuesday where they heard testimonies from UPMC workers about living on “poverty wages.”

After hearing the testimonies, PIIN created a declaration that it tried to deliver to Romoff Thursday, which stated that UPMC should take steps to not only provide living wages but also affordable healthcare and a safe environment for employees to speak without “harassment.”

The group tried to deliver the declaration Thursday, but was instead met by police and arrests.

The officers eventually cut off the plastic handcuffs and let the activists leave, but a sergeant told a reporter for the Pittsburgh City Paper they will receive citations for criminal trespass in the mail.

Lyde said several of the faith leaders testified at a city council hearing about the issue Wednesday where they received “just about” unanimous consent from city council.

“I think that it is clear even in our new mayor’s policy and stance on this that our city is on this side,” Lyde said. “And it’s going to help our city, help our region so we’re going to stay with this fight.”

PIIN has scheduled a march for March 3rd.

Jess is from Elizabeth Borough, PA and is a junior at Duquesne University with a double major in journalism and public relations. She was named as a fellow in the WESA newsroom in May 2013.