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Pittsburgh's Unionized Cleaners To Rally For Better Contracts

Members of 32BJ SEIU march down Grant Street Downtown.

On today's program: Pennsylvania may consider allowing college athletes to get paid; encouraging natural gas development in the state could mean big changes at the DEP; a local man claims he lost a job after using medical marijuana; and unionized cleaners in Pittsburgh are fighting for better working conditions. 

Should college athletes get a cut of their teams' revenues?
(00:00 — 12:18) 

College athletes at California schools could hire agents and make money on endorsements starting in 2023. While the NCAA is already fighting the move, some lawmakers in Pennsylvania are exploring similar measures.

Democratic State Reps. Dan Miller and Ed Gainey say they're planning to introduce the "Fair Pay to Play Act," which would be similar to California's law, allowing student-athletes to be compensated for names, images and likeness. The two are looking for bipartisan support before formally introducing the bill. 

Sports attorney Ralph Cindrich of Cindrich and Associates once played football for the University of Pittsburgh and the NFL. He's against the proposal, and says the few student-athletes who'd even qualify could be taken advantage of.

Plans to capitalize on PA’s natural gas isn’t sitting well with environmentalists
(13:39 — 17:39)

Pennsylvania House Republicans have put forward a plan to support the natural gas industry in the state. “Energize PA” includes seven bills, four of which have already advanced, including some that deal with redeveloping old industrial sites. 

Other parts of the plan are more controversial, like a bill aimed at speeding up environmental permits that address, among other things, air and water pollution. The Allegheny Front’s Kara Holsopple reports that bill would take away permitting authority from the Department of Environmental Protection and give it to a new politically-appointed commission. 

Allegheny County man says he was denied job for medical marijuana use
(17:42 — 21:31) 

Derek Gsell, of Moon Township is suing Universal Electric Corporation for allegedly rescinding a job offer after he failed a hair follicle drug test. Gsell says that he provided documentation showing he is a legal holder of a medical marijuana ID card. Pennsylvania opened its medical marijuana registry to patients two years ago, but Gsell’s case is among the first to test the statute

The law states, “No employer may discharge, threaten, refuse to hire or otherwise discriminate or retaliate against an employee regarding an employee's compensation, terms, conditions, location or privileges solely on the basis of such employee's status as an individual who is certified to use medical marijuana.” 

90.5 WESA’s Sarah Boden discusses the implications of Gsell’s suit and how things could get more complicated if the case moves into federal court. 

Unionized cleaners fighting for better contracts
(21:37 — 38:41)

32BJ SEIU cleaners will be joined by local leaders in the Strip District Thursday to demand better wages and benefits. The unionized cleaners are currently in negotiations with their employers, most commercial cleaning contractors.

Sam Williamson, Western Pennsylvania District Leader of 32BJ SEIU tells The Confluence’sMegan Harris that successful talks between 32BJ members and contractors in Philadelphia have given local union members a sense of optimism. He’s joined by 32BJ members Nekia Burton and Steve Kelley as they discuss what the nearly 1,500 local union cleaners want from their new contracts. 

The rally begins at 2:30 p.m. in the Strip District at 15th and Railroad streets.

90.5 WESA’s Julia Zenkevich contributed to this report.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Kiley Koscinski is a general assignment reporter for 90.5 WESA. She previously produced The Confluence and Morning Edition. Before coming to WESA, she worked as an assignment desk editor and producer at 1020 AM KDKA. She can be reached at
Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago.
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