Some UPMC workers took to Pittsburgh’s downtown streets Thursday to highlight their uphill battle to form a union.
Participants at the march and rally said the state’s largest hospital system has a history of violating workers rights. This strike is in response to the most recent decisions by the National Labor Relations Board from August. The board found that UPMC threatened workers with poor performance reviews, prohibited people from distributing union materials, and attempted to ban organizing conversations during non-work time.
UPMC Presbyterian food service worker Ashley Smith was among those who participated in a one-day strike Thursday. She said her employer shouldn’t interfere with efforts to form a union.
“We demand dignity and respect,” said Smith. “Without us, this hospital would not run. We are all housekeepers. We are all transporters. We are all food service workers. Without us, what would there be?”
Workers said that although the Labor Board and workers gave the company a list of remedies months ago, UPMC has yet to act on them.
Elected officials and candidates for office also spoke at Thursdays rally.
City Controller Chelsa Wagner thanked the protestors for their courage to speak out. “All of you are here because you are willing to take a risk, and to raise your voice to stand up for families,” said Wagner.
The rally comes just one month before mid-term elections and there was an emphasis at the protest on electing officials at all levels who support unions.
In a statement, a UPMC spokesperson said Thursday's strike did not impact patient care. It did not address protesters' concerns.
WESA receives funding from UPMC.