Striking McDonald’s J-1 student worker, UPMC and Rivers Casino worker and local public transit activist kicked-off latest in series of actions to build grassroots movement to hold UPMC accountable.
On Saturday March 9th, dozens of Pittsburghers gathered on the Northside to keep building the movement to hold UPMC accountable to the community it is meant to serve. In just a few hours, over 400 Northside residents signed on to the Code of Conduct for a Strong, Healthy Pittsburgh.
Back in January, over 100 people marched through downtown Pittsburgh to deliver the Code of Conduct to elected officials and ask them to join the movement to make UPMC act like a real charity.
But it didn’t stop there. Since then, community supporters have been to the Southside, East Liberty and now the Northside to build a grassroots movement. The Northside canvass was the largest and most successful canvass yet.
“UPMC workers know better than anyone what happens when the largest employer around can pay poverty wages. Even after 10 years of working at UPMC I have to go to the food bank to put food on the table, and I’m not the only one,” said Leslie Poston, a unit secretary at UPMC. “This isn’t just bad for me and my co-workers, but if UPMC can get away with paying poverty wages, that means every working person in Pittsburgh is going to see less money in their paycheck. If our whole community stands up and makes UPMC act like a real charity and put Pittsburgh first like they’re supposed to, we’re all going to do better.”
Leslie was joined by several other speakers, including Fernando Divaguetto, a J-1 Cultural Exchange Student from Paraguay who along with his fellow cultural exchange students made national news last week when they went on strike to protest the exploitation of foreign students by McDonald’s. While McDonald’s is in the hamburger business and UPMC is one of the most prestigious medical systems in the country, they have something in common – paying the people who work for them poverty wages. In Pennsylvania, UPMC is third, just behind McDonald’s, in the number of employees who receive Medicaid.