PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) – An estimated 300 workers and bused-in labor activists tied up Pittsburgh traffic when they marched downtown to rally outside the corporate offices of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
Monday’s rally follows demonstrations outside the same building last week when police cited nine demonstrators for trespassing.
The activists from the Service Employees International Union, which is trying to organize some of the hospital network’s workers, and others were also pressing for higher wages for cooks, custodians and other blue-collar health workers.
The protest brought traffic to a standstill and gridlocked most of Downtown. The group ended outside of UPMC headquarters on Grant Street and joined with organizations and faith-based groups, pushing for change.
“We see their fight as a fight for our whole community. A fight for our future,” Barney Oursler with Pittsburgh United said.
UPMC didn’t immediately comment on the rally, but has said the network’s starting hourly wage for such workers is $11, more than the $10 minimum wage that labor activists have been pushing the country to adopt.
“I take home less than 350 a week. Less than,” UPMC employee Christoria Hughes said. “We need higher minimum wage. We should start at least $15 an hour.”
UPMC spokesman Paul Wood talked to NewsRadio 1020 KDKA about the protest.
Mayor Bill Peduto also released a statement Monday, addressing the demonstrations.
“I want to thank city residents, police and protesters for their patience during peaceful downtown events today,” he said. “During demonstrations today 43 police officers and two squad cars from each police zone have been posted throughout the Central Business District to aid with public safety and to direct traffic. More than 1,000 people exercised their First Amendment rights to peaceably assemble, and by cooperating with police no arrests have been reported. My office has kept lines of communication open with protest organizers and business groups to address any concerns.”
The Port Authority issued an alert Monday, saying that buses downtown were running about 15 to 20 minutes late because of the protests.
“It is expected that protests may last until approximately 8 this evening,” read part of the alert on the Port Authority’s website. “Standing delays are possible for the duration of the protests.”
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