ShareThis Page

30 cited for blocking street at union rally at UPMC facility

| Wednesday, July 30, 2014, 11:06 a.m.
Justin Merriman | Trib Total Media
Demonstrators are arrested along Grant Street during a protest against UPMC, calling for good jobs with a union for all service workers, Downtown on Wednesday, July 30, 2014. The protestors began with a rally in Mellon Square Park then marched to UPMC's headquarters where around 30 demonstrators were arrested by police.

About 30 people demanding better wages and trying to form a union for service workers at UPMC facilities were arrested for sitting in the middle of a busy Downtown street and blocking Wednesday afternoon's rush hour traffic.

More than 400 protesters gathered at Mellon Square Park at the corner of Sixth Avenue and William Penn Place before marching to UPMC's corporate headquarters in the U.S. Steel Building at the intersection of Grant Street and Strawberry Way where they planned to be arrested.

“I think the only time anything gets done in this country is when people take a stand,” said Denise Cox, 49, who was among those arrested and described herself as a union worker from Ohioville, Beaver County. “It's what America is all about.”

The rally was peaceful as protesters calmly chatted and joked with police officials as they waited to be taken into custody. Most wore red stripes on their shoulders to signify they were to be arrested, city police said after talking with leaders of the protest.

Six people were cited for trespassing Wednesday morning in Shadyside as they rallied to support a group of janitors who claim they were fired last month from UPMC for supporting the union movement.

Labor union 32BJ Service Employees International represents the fired janitors. A UPMC spokeswoman declined to comment.

“It's not about being arrested. It's about the unfairness of UPMC,” said Donald Cooper, 59, a community activist from Homestead, as he waited to be taken into custody on Grant Street. “You can't just talk about it. You got to be about it.”

The protesters wants UPMC to pay its service workers a minimum of $15 an hour. UPMC posted $10.2 billion in revenue and $10.1 billion in expenses for the fiscal year ending in June 2013.

Barbara Mathis, who is deaf, told fellow protesters, through sign language and an interpreter, that she was let go this month after 23 years at UPMC Presbyterian in Oakland where she worked as a supply technician.

“They ... told me that I had to keep my mouth shut if I wanted to receive any severance pay,” Mathis said. “But I'm not going to let them silence me.“

The Rev. Ronald Wanless, a retired Methodist pastor who led churches in McKeesport, Clairton and the North Side and works with the Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network, said he and five others went into UPMC Shadyside about 8 a.m. and walked to the medical building. They knocked on the door of Janet Crowley, the building manager and former supervisor of the fired janitors, Wanless said.

“The security people asked us to leave, and we said, ‘No, we weren't going to leave,' ” Wanless said. “What we were trying to accomplish was to get some action to right a wrong.”

Wanless said four police officers arrived to escort them from the building. They were told they had been cited for trespassing and would receive a court summons in the mail, Wanless said.

Michael Hasch and Aaron Aupperlee are staff writers for Trib Total Media.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.