PITTSBURGH, PA — City police cited six workers and community activists at Shadyside Medical Office building this morning after the group tried to meet with UPMC management and demand the rehiring of janitors fired in retaliation for union activism.
Among those cited were union members, staff and clergy. They were cited for trespassing in Shadyside where several dozen union members and clergy gathered at 8 a.m. They displayed a huge banner reading “UPMC: Life Changing Firings,” held aloft by weather balloons.
“I have worked at UPMC Shadyside Medical Building for 12 years,” said Donald Malcom, one of the fired workers. “I have cleaned this building too long to be treated like this.”
“It’s bad enough that UPMC is trying to deny its own workers the right to organize; they’re punishing contractors simply for respecting their own workers and recognizing their rights,” 32BJ Western Pennsylvania District Director Sam Williamson said. “Unless we fight back, UPMC will drag the entire region’s economy down to its own poverty-wage level.” Williamson was one of the six cited by the police.
The Rev. Dr. Ronald A. Wanless, who also was charged, said the firings “showed [UPMC’s] contempt for democracy in the workplace.”
The rally was organized by 32BJ SEIU, which represents the fired janitors, and drew workers and supporters from all over Western Pennsylvania.
Last month, UPMC’s management fired the union contractor employing the cleaners at the Shadyside Medical Office Building, replacing it with a non-union contractor. The firing has sparked a backlash from community supporters who see UPMC’s actions as retaliatory and an affront to all Pittsburgh workers. 32BJ believes the firings are retaliation for the union’s support of UPMC health care workers who are fighting to organize a union. After many years of 32BJ members cleaning the building with no reported problems, elected officials and union leaders question the motives and the timing of UPMC’s decision to fire the union contractor.
Fired janitors who visited the buildings’ management to demand their jobs back were told that their termination was the result of an edict from UPMC to get rid of union cleaning contractors. Many of the janitors have been cleaning the office building for at least a decade and are left with no way to support their families.
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.