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SEIU Healthcare Endorses Ed Gainey For Mayor

Jacqueline Larma
Rep. Ed Gainey (right) has received the endorsement from SEIU Healthcare in his bid for mayor. It's his biggest endorsement to date.

On today's program: State Rep. Ed Gainey received his largest endorsement for mayor to date from SEIU Healthcare; environmental groups are raising concerns about renewed permits for a fracking well in Plum Borough; and state Rep. Jordan Harris gives his take on the governor’s proposal to support college students attending state universities through a new scholarship program. 

SEIU Healthcare endorses state Rep. Ed Gainey in his bid for mayor

(0:00 — 4:25) 

The Service Employees International Union representing health care workers and employees in health facilities endorsed state Rep. Ed Gainey, who is running to unseat Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto. This is Gainey’s biggest endorsement to date.  

SEIU Healthcare supported Peduto when he ran for mayor in previous years, expecting him to support efforts to unionize service workers at UPMC hospitals. But efforts to unionize are still in the works. 

“In recent years, they have become increasingly disenchanted with the mayor,” says Chris Potter, WESA’s government and accountability editor. 

“Gainey has been a very visible figure when it comes to appearing at protests, things like that,” says Potter. “[SEIU Healthcare is] really looking to him to sort of raise this issue back up.”

He says the union also hopes Gainey might challenge the tax status of UPMC

“Neither the mayor nor his campaign is at all surprised about this,” says Potter. Peduto, however, has amassed endorsements from other unions, including from SEIU Local 32BJ, the sister union to SEIU Healthcare. Potter says SEIU Local 32BJ has had a much more positive experience under the Peduto administration. 

Environmental groups want to stop an injection well in Plum Borough
(4:27 — 10:16)

Environmental groups want Gov. Tom Wolf to void state permits for a fracking waste injection well in Plum Borough, Allegheny County.  

Meanwhile, the state Department of Environmental Protection is allowing public comment on the renewal of permits for 49 fracking waste recycling and storage facilities. 

Most fracking wastewater gets recycled and reused for more fracking, but sometimes the waste is stored in above-ground tanks, or processed and later disposed of in a treatment plant. 

“The largest means of disposal is to recycle it or inject it into a well,” says Reid Frazier, who’s been reporting on this issue for The Allegheny Front. 

The DEP and Pentaco Environmental Solutions, who are developing the Plum Borough injection well, says the well in question is safe and unlikely to contaminate other resources. 

“The state and EPA has found it’s far enough away from rock layers that would cause earthquakes, and confined by tight formations that conceivably would prevent any kind of migration of this liquid into areas of the ground like groundwater, aquifers that you wouldn’t want to see it in,” says Frazier.

The DEP, however, has updated the program the permits are under, and with that change, environmental groups are asking to comment and make the case the injection well permits should be revoked.

“All the unconventional gas wells in Pennsylvania produced 64 million barrels of oil and gas waste in 2019, and that’s 2.7 billion gallons of wastewater,” says Fraizer. 

The decision for voiding the permits lies with the DEP, although Wolf has said his administration will look into the issue. 

The 60-day comment period regarding other fracking waste facilities will begin March 31 at the latest.

State Rep. Jordan Harris on what it might take to fund higher education
(10:18 — 18:00)

According to a recent study from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 37 states have cut funding for higher education in the last decade. 

However, tuition costs have increased by 35% for four-year higher education institutions nationwide, leaving some students to take on more debt, or avoid college altogether.

Gov. Tom Wolf recently announced the Nellie Bly Scholarship in his budget proposal, which would support full-time undergrad students who have a household income of less than $104,800 at the 14 Pennsylvania state-owned universities. The scholarship is contingent upon the student agreeing to stay in Pennsylvania after graduation for the same number of years as the scholarship, otherwise, it turns into a low-interest loan. 

“As a graduate of Millersville, I think it’s a great program because the cost of college has just gotten out of hand,” says state Rep. Jordan Harris, a Democrat from the Philadelphia area and a former public school educator. “Students are taking on more debt and families are taking on more debt in order to go after and seize the American dream through higher education.”

Harris says some of the issues in higher education start with a lack of funding for K-12 education. 

“Our K-12 education is at the bottom when it comes to equity across the country, and that’s where a lot of these discrepancies start. This is all cyclical,” says Harris. He says a student who succeeds in K-12, college, and is gainfully employed, can eventually support their own children to pursue higher education as well. 

“You pass the PA Promise tomorrow, you fund these young people having the opportunity to succeed,” says Harris. “So, we’ll pay to educate those young folks, but then they’ll pay us by staying here and contributing to this economy and lending their mind and their talent to the future of Pennsylvania.”

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.


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.
Marylee is the editor/producer of The Confluence, the daily public affairs show on WESA. She got her start in journalism at The Daily Reveille and KLSU while attending Louisiana State University. She took her passion for audio journalism to UC Berkeley's graduate program and worked in public radio at WPR in Madison, WI, and WOSU in Columbus, Ohio.
Laura Tsutsui is a producer for The Confluence, WESA's morning news show. Previously, she reported on the San Joaquin Valley with the NPR affiliate station in her hometown of Fresno, California. She can be reached at
Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Isabelle is a student at George Washington University studying Political Communication. She loves all things Pittsburgh sports and serves as a sports anchor for GW-TV. In her free time, she enjoys museum hopping and walking her dog, Stevie.
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