Raising the standard for good working conditions is like a chain reaction. More people will see their work life can be better.

~ Clara Vargas, 32BJ Member, Florida

Making the Steel City Stronger

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by Gabe Morgan
Vice President and Pennsylvania State Director

As Black History Month comes to a close, let us not forget the courageous efforts of those who came before us, the men and women who sacrificed and gave their lives fighting as we continue to do today. People like civil rights activists: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Medgar Evers, Jimmie Lee Jackson, and Viola Liuzzo, Many of the issues they fought for then remain: poverty, racism, voter rights, classism, pay inequality, and so much more.

In Pittsburgh, security guards across the city stand to make history. Close to a thousand are working for a union and better wages, and a majority of these men and women are African American. The economic impact of paying people family-sustaining wages and benefits could change the landscape of their communities and the city as a whole. Pittsburgh businesses have the opportunity to move an entire group of people to the middle class. These hard-working men and women deserve a chance to better not only themselves but their communities and the city’s economy.

While that fight is taking place in one part of the city, we are working hard for 400 property service workers at the University of Pittsburgh. These dedicated men and women maintain the grounds, dorms, and buildings of one of the nation’s top institutions; they are the backbone of the college and their neighborhoods. But they are finding it harder to make ends meet. Their contract expired in December, but they stay on the job, giving their all despite feeling disrespected by the university. The administration came to the table only offering them a 1% raise while the university offered its top-tiered administrators 3.7% to 7% increases. Some of those administrators saw raises of $20,000. There’s a problem there. The tale of two Pittsburghs lives right on one campus. We should build a better Pittsburgh by raising wages for all our brothers and sisters.

This fight is not our own. We are not alone. It’s not just security officers in Pittsburgh or property service workers at the University of Pittsburgh. Others are right alongside us. The Fight for $15 movement has galvanized the country and right here in Pittsburgh. Fast-food workers are demanding $15 and a union. The call to action is taking place now, and we stand side-by-side demanding the same goals—fair wages, respect and dignity on the job, and a better life for our children. Like us, they are tired of making those hard decisions every month as to what is going to get paid and what’s not. WE ARE ALL IN, AND WE WILL WIN!

As Black History Month comes to close, let’s make history. Let’s get these security guards family-sustaining wages. Let’s get our property service workers what they need to continue to survive, thrive, and support their communities. Let us not grow weary. The fight for what’s right continues. TOGETHER WE WILL MAKE THE STEEL CITY STONGER.

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