Harrisburg may be the Capitol of Pennsylvania, but a case could be made that the heart of Pennsylvania's working class is Pittsburgh. The "Steel City" will be the focal point of several events this week.
Some events have actually already started Friday, August 1, with a pre-bargaining rally with members of the Communications Workers Of America. Their contract with Verizon will be up for negotiation in 2015. State AFL-CIO President Richard Bloomingdale declared, "Today we begin mobilizing our unions and our allies to help send a strong message that we are united in support of Verizon workers.” Verizon is notorious for being difficult to bargain with and Secretary-Treasurer Frank Snyder pledged support by saying, "We will be there every step of the way, and for as long as it takes".
July 30 brought the State AFL-CIO leadership into a coalition of elected officials, clergy and community leader that are protesting University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's efforts to prevent workers from organizing and the firings of unionized janitors. President Bloomingdale put it this way:
"UPMC needs to respect its workers, patients, and taxpayers, who support middle class jobs, a strong economy, and a vibrant city. When you raise the wages of these workers with a strong union voice, you improve the conditions and standards for the entire city. Pittsburgh is a union city and UPMC and their overpaid executives need to stop standing in the way of progress for Pittsburgh. It’s time to start leading or get out of the way.”
Tomorrow, August 4, the State House was to return for a summer session. The focus was to be a cigarette tax to close a shortfall in the Philadelphia Public School system's budget, but Governor Corbett also wanted to see action on his plan to privatize pensions. The cancellation of this session could be a further sign of rift between the Governor and legislative leaders. The State General Assembly is now slated to return to business on September 15.
Pennsylvania's unions will not be taking a recess though. August 22-24 brings the COPE institute to Linden Hall. Also, as it is getting to be the time for many to start shopping for notebooks and notebook computers, pens, tablets, etc, please know that the boycott of Staples is still ongoing. Dean Showers, President of the United Steelworkers local 6996, cut his Staples credit card during the completed Community Services institute to make this point.