Pittsburgh Workers Protest For Higher Wages, Union Rights

Apr 14, 2016

Protesters rallied on Pittsburgh's North Side early Thursday morning, demanding higher wages and the right to form a union.
Credit Virginia Alvino / 90.5 WESA

Dozens of service workers, students and families protested outside a McDonald's restaurant on Pittsburgh’s North Side Thursday.

William Boas led the crowd in chants by megaphone. 

He said fast food jobs aren't just for teenagers. 

“This McDonald's right here is open 24 hours a day," Boas said. "We don’t have to be the smartest people in the world to know that it takes adults to run that store. Right now, it’s a Thursday morning. Kids are in school.” 

Some experts say a living wage is somewhere between $10 and $15 per hour for a single adult, but the federal minimum wage is $7.25. Boas, 34, said he made $8 per hour working at McDonald's. He said he needs higher wages to support himself and his three children.

The Pittsburgh protesters are part of a national movement called "Fight for 15," which advocates for a $15 dollar per hour minimum wage. Lawmakers in California and New York recently announced they’d phase in a higher wage floor. So did one of Pittsburgh’s biggest employers: UPMC.

While many hospital workers saw that as a victory, they’ve also been fighting for union rights for years. Thursday, Pittsburgh City Councilman Ricky Burgess joined them.

"The right to form a union without interference and intimidation is what puts us on the real path to good jobs, and quality healthcare for everyone," Burgess said. 

Dozens of hospital workers walked off the job Thursday, demanding union rights.

In a statement, UPMC it would not interfere with any employees who participate in the one-day strike.