Pittsburgh— A vigil is normally held to mourn the life of a person who is deceased. On Thursday, February 19, 2015 at 7 p.m., a coalition of supporters hosted a vigil to say goodbye to unfair conditions for 400 University of Pittsburgh property service workers. More than 100 workers, students, staffers, and lawmakers from City Council called on the university to do what is right and fair. The vigil took place at the Pitt Student Union, Forbes Avenue under the Litchfield Towers.
“We care about the students and faculty that make up the Pitt community, and do our best to create a safe, clean and welcoming learning environment,” said Carla Love, a cleaner who has worked at Pitt for 10 years. “We just want our work to be recognized and valued.”
The Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board projects 18,000 jobs coming to Pittsburgh this year. The bad news is 43% of those jobs will pay less than $14 an hour. Half of those will pay less than $10 an hour.
“We need Pitt to lead and help us build a middle class economy for all Pittsburghers. If Pitt can afford raises worth more than $20,000 per year for the richest people on campus, it should be able to do better by its janitors as well,” said Councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess (D-9th).
“The university gave its top tier administrators huge 3.7% to 7% increases. But they’re not even offering us enough to keep pace with the cost of living. We shouldn’t pay the same costs in healthcare as the university chancellor and football coach,” said Steven Latimore, a janitor who has been with Pitt for 18 years.
The property service workers contract expired in December. They currently make around $16 an hour. Workers, who are members of 32BJ SEIU, decided to extend their contract to negotiate a fair contract that supports increased wages to pay for healthcare.
Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak (D-4th) a supporter of the workers understood the type of impact this could have. “It is a trickle-down effect. When workers are not paid fair wages, it disrupts families, and ultimately impacts the community and local economy.”
With 145,000 members in eleven states and Washington, D.C., including 22,000 in Pennsylvania, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.