Help support our work
Donate via PayPal to advance the fight for economic justice in Pittsburgh!
Big thank you to all of you that showed up in support of the fast food strikes yesterday. Adjunct professors, UPMC workers, janitors, union members, community leaders and faith groups stood together in the global fight for workers’ rights and living wages–it was truly amazing. Yesterday was historic. Fast food workers walked out on strike in 250 cities across the United States and in more than 33 countries across the globe. While workers in the U.S were standing up for $15 and a union, Denmark McDonald’s workers demanded to know why they earn $21 an hour and their brothers and sisters in the U.S. live with poverty wages. The media coverage and social media reach is astonishing. International coverage has shown how the fast food worker movement is blowing up around the world. This USA Today story has a lot of interesting details about how workers in other countries are joining the fight. The spread of the movement worldwide was the lead story in the New York Times’ influential mobile morning news briefing. Here are a few photos from international media coverage and social media. You can see the latest at fastfoodglobal.org and by searching for the hashtag #fastfoodglobal. Below are links to clips from Pittsburgh. Attached are clips from around the globe, including Argentina, Brazil, Cambodia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Macedonia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom and Venezuela. KDKA WPXI Post Gazette Tribune Review The Rick Smith Show Japan Korea New Zealand Mumbai
Valentine’s Day. It’s the day of love. In our culture, Valentine’s Day is pretty tightly focused on romantic love, but we are all touched by love of some kind.
The Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network, known as PIIN, has a campaign, called Love Thy Neighbor, built on the concept of community love. PIIN’s mission statement explains– they are an organization “committed to drawing together people of faith to act powerfully on local and regional issues of justice and fairness.”
The Love Thy Neighbor campaign calls on people of faith in Pittsburgh and throughout southwestern Pennsylvania to take an interest in the needs of their neighbors. Neighborly love is an idea that is central to every religion I know of. The Bible exhorts us to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” In Islam, the prophet Muhammad stated that “None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.”
Though we may come from different backgrounds and faiths, I think we know that “love thy neighbor” is an appeal to our better selves — an appeal to do with our lives what we should. We are called to take an active interest in our neighbor’s well-being. We are called to treat people with dignity, love, and respect.
But we don’t view our neighbor as the object of our permanent charity. We work with our neighbor to make sure everyone can provide for their families and have a safe place to live. In the words of Muhammad, if you love your neighbor, you want everything for them that you would want for yourself.
As another section of the Bible would tell us, real love is not selfish. An unselfish love means not asking, how does my love for you benefit me? You want the best for the person you love and don’t feel that this love and support takes anything away from your own life. However, unselfish love has a funny way of coming back around – when we lift each other up, we are lifted up in return.
In Pittsburgh, many people across our city are asking UPMC, Where’s the Love? PIIN is calling on the region’s largest employer, UPMC, to do right by its employees and the community it’s meant to serve.
Think back to when you were in kindergarten, when Valentine’s Day meant sending cards to your entire class rather than singling out an individual person. Now imagine taking that spirit of community and extending it to last all year. That type of love is what Pittsburgh needs to thrive.
When I listen and really understand your story there is an opportunity for both of us. An opportunity to connect, to get angry, to learn, to relate. In that way, you help me and I help you to find our voices and lift them together. We empower each other to take action.
Empowerment means change. Something in the way things currently are has to give. So it can be hard. In my life, I have learned to place a high value on self-determination. This value is based in a few basic beliefs: first, that everyone is uniquely qualified to understand their own story, and second, that any lasting change in a person’s life has to be the result of their own decisions. You and I must choose to be powerful. We must choose to overcome what holds us back.
When 1300 Memphis sanitation workers walked off the job in 1968, after years of poverty and mistreatment by their bosses, they made a choice. They chose between continuing to work for poverty wages in inhumane, dangerous conditions, for poverty wages; or standing together to demand to be treated like men.
They chose to stand together; they chose to strike. In the face of brutality from the police and local government, sanitation workers took to the streets, marching with signs declaring the simple truth: “I Am A Man.”
Dr. Martin Luther King lent his support to the sanitation workers’ movement, sharing in their insistence that they be treated as men, worthy of dignity and respect. In an address given on March 18, 1968, Dr. King stated that “work that serves humanity…it has dignity, and it has worth…it is a crime for people to live in this rich nation and receive starvation wages.” A few weeks later, on the eve of his death, he reminded the workers and the people of Memphis that “the greatness of America is the right to protest for right.” Though King was assassinated onApril 4th, the legacy that he helped to build remained. To this day, we speak of our rights to make our own choices and stand up against the forces that prevent us and our communities from achieving dignity.
We can look to these lessons to inform our actions in our own communities, by listening, learning, and thinking about what holds us back. Listen in Pittsburgh, and people are talking about UPMC. What stands in our way is UPMC.
UPMC employs 60,000 people across the state of Pennsylvania; it is the largest private sector employer in the state. UPMC is the biggest landowner in the city of Pittsburgh, and the city’s largest charity, meaning that everyone in our city pays something to support UPMC hospitals.
UPMC has billions in revenue and billions in reserves, so it can afford to pay 27 executives $1 million or more in compensation; the top 22 made $47 million last year – approximately half of what they give to charity care in the region. They also spent $55 million on the private airplane that they purchased in 2013 – approximately the other half of the value of their charity care.
While executives make top dollar, the largest group of UPMC employees, service who keep UPMC running on a daily basis, make an estimated median wage of $12.18 per hour–between 8% and 30% below what would be a family-sustaining wage in the city of Pittsburgh. Unsurprisingly, UPMC is third in the state for employers whose full-time employees receive Medicaid and food stamps, just after Wal-Mart and McDonald’s.
What are workers doing? Let’s listen to Christoria Hughes, an employee of UPMC. Christoria is a grandmother with primary care of her grandchildren. When her granddaughter was struggling to finance her education at Pitt, Christoria moved her family to Pittsburgh to provide support and began working for UPMC. Christoria proudly saw her granddaughter graduate from Pitt with honors; however, she has found it a struggle to make ends meet in Pittsburgh on the wages paid by UPMC. Though she works as much overtime as possible (she has coworkers who work up to 70 hours per week), Christoria is one of many UPMC workers who has to rely on federal housing assistance to keep a roof over her family’s head.
Faced with the choice to accept conditions as they are or to fight back, Christoria has chosen to reach out to others who are struggling and to build a common fight. She is one of the many workers of UPMC fighting to grow the middle class in Pittsburgh inside the state’s largest employer. Her choice is not without risk. Coworkers who are vocal in supporting the union face intimidation, harassment, and discrimination. Some union supporters have been fired. By giving us her story, Christoria helps us understand the choice.
As we approach MLK Day and remember that great man, we should look to our own movements, really hear our own stories, get angry, and choose to overcome.
On Monday, January 20th, from 9-11:30 AM, PIIN will be hosting an action and prayer vigil as part of their larger campaign to fight for equality in Pittsburgh. The action will starts on 5th Avenue, across from Presbyterian Hospital, 1025 Liverpool Street. Please join us!
In a landmark decision for voting rights in PA, a judge has ruled that the PA’s Voter ID law, signed into law by Governor Corbett in 2012, is unconstitutional because it “unreasonably burdens the right to vote.”
The law was first put into place to “stop voting fraud’ despite reports of voter fraud happening so seldomly in the US that it is not believed to be a problem. From 2002 to 2005 only .00000013% of votes for federal candidates resulted in convictions for voter fraud.
It’s been believed by many that the law was put into place to suppress critical votes by the elderly, minorities and the very poor who often vote Democrat. Republican state Rep, Mike Turzai made a statement that Voter ID would ‘help Mitt Romney win Pennsylvania’ which did little to dispel that notion.
This is a HUGE win not only for voters across Pennsylvania, but also for the One Pittsburgh activists that have worked hard for almost two years to have this law overturned.
We’ve worked so hard that One Pittsburgh was recognized in the Post-Gazette for our efforts.
Voter ID laws are just one of the many issues that threaten the 99%, but as we move towards economic justice by taking on Fast Food corporations, the minimum wage, UPMC’s charity status, Gov. Corbett and more it’s important to look back and realize that when we fight for what’s right we can win.
We expect 2014 to be a big year, and seeing an undemocratic laws like this struck down is a good sign.
2013 was an incredible year where One Pittsburgh activists have pushed themselves and done more than they ever have to make Pittsburgh a place that works for everyone with good jobs, good schools, good healthcare and good communities.
Check out this slideshow retrospective of the last year and get fired up for 2014!
In organizing, our causes and tactics may vary, but every effective movement begins with personal narrative. As Elie Wiesel once said, “people become the stories they hear and the stories they tell.” When we tell our stories, we give our struggles a name and a face and invite others to be part of our fight.
I’ve wanted to be a social worker for most of my life. When I was a freshman in high school, my history teacher told us stories of his time as a Peace Corps volunteer. I was hooked on the idea that someone could dedicate their lives to helping others; as I grew older, I realized that social workers did the same thing, only here in our country. I envisioned myself working with troubled youth as a case manager or a counselor, something where I could make a difference in someone else’s life, and I went off to college with that goal.
A month after graduation, I started working with kids in the juvenile justice system. I counseled teenagers who had been placed on house arrest as an alternative to juvenile detention. The clients were great. The job, however, was not at all what I expected. I got into social work because I wanted to help clients make changes in their lives, but everywhere I turned, all I found was barrier after barrier. One of my clients, a fifteen-year-old girl, resisted talking to me for weeks. One day, we had an emotional breakthrough. She agreed to start talking to a therapist about what she was going through. The problem: her mom refused to pay the copay for the visits. She could afford it, but she wouldn’t pay “one red cent” for treatment she didn’t think her daughter needed.
I was livid. I called her probation officer, I talked to the mom directly, I talked to everybody I could think of to try and get this kid some help. I ended up in my area supervisor’s office, insisting that there had to be something we could do. While she wasn’t unsympathetic, she shrugged her shoulders and said: “It is what it is, y’know?” And I swear to you, I have never hated a phrase in the English language more than I hated “it is what it is” in that moment in time.
I got laid of from that job because of funding issues. “It is what it is.” Kids lose their teacher. “It is what it is.” Legislators try to deprive people of their right to vote. “It is what it is.” ETCETC.
But here’s the thing. Things are what they are because people made them that way. But to paraphrase the great Nelson Mandela, our problems are not natural. They are man made. And if they are made by people, they can be fixed by people. Fixing them is called justice.
All around me, I see people who are refusing to accept that things just are what they are. Some of them caught the justice bug in their teens, some did it in college, some on the job. Our stories aren’t identical, but they have a common theme. That moment when we know that things can change and we’re ready to be part of making in happen. We don’t accept barriers at face value, and if our neighbor is suffering, we don’t let them go it alone. As the chant goes, “what do we do?” “Stand up! Fight back!”
Carrie Hallum is an intern at One Pittsburgh working on a dual masters in social work and public administration. Her blogs are dedicated to sharing her journey through social work and social justice here in Pittsburgh.
On Dec. 9th hundreds joined a national day of action for public education, and chose to make Corbett the focus. Since Corbett has taken office, public education in Pennsylvania has been under attack. More than a billion dollars has been taken from public education.
One Pittsburgh joined groups such as Action United, American Federation of Teachers, Great Public Schools Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network and Yinzercation in rallying with more than a hundred supporters of public education in Pittsburgh despite the freezing temperatures.
the Westinghouse High School marching band provided the rhythm and some dancing to keep everyone’s spirits up. Like many public schools across the country Westinghouse has funding problems that endanger their music program, making these particular students emblematic of the struggles education faces under Corbett.
Over the last year Fast Food workers across the country have been striking to demand $15 and a union.
On December 5th, workers in Pittsburgh joined workers in hundreds of cities across the United States to demand a living wage that will allow them to support themselves and their families.
It was the first time fast food workers stood up for living wages in Pittsburgh with workers all over the region walking off the job.
Here are some of the highlights:
The first strike took place at the Dunkin’ Donuts in Market Square at 6am. Enough workers walked of the job that the store was closed.
More than a hundred community members rallied in Market Square in support of the workers in full view of the huge press coverage from multiple television stations.
The rally moved to the McDonald’s on Forbes and Stanwix. Activists took over the lobby and chanted for raised wages from one of the largest low wage employers in the world.
Later that afternoon the next strike took place on the North Side where workers from the Wendy’s and McDonald’s walked off the job and rallied despite the rainy, overcast conditions.
This was a huge deal and got a massive amount of press coverage in this city and around the country.
Some fast-food workers strike in Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh Business Times
Dozens of workers strike outside Downtown fast-food locations
Pittsburgh Tribune Review
See more pictures on Flickr HERE