Thousands of marchers took to the streets for the annual Labor Day parade in Pittsburgh Monday. This year an estimated 85,000 participants in 191 groups were expected to down Grant Street and onto Boulevard of the Allies.
Local politicians and community leaders participated in the parade, including U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, Jack Shea, president of the Allegheny County Labor Council, and Bishop David Zubik of the Pittsburgh Diocese.
Former University of Pittsburgh Medical Center workers who said they were let go because of their union activities were among the marchers as well.
One of those workers was Ron Oaks of Green Tree.
“I first got fired in July of 2012. I was off for seven months,” Oaks said. “(I) came back on February the 25th, got fired again on March 20th, the day the mayor made the announcement they’re going after UPMC’s tax status.”
UPMC’s treatment of its employees and nonprofit tax status were major themes at this year’s parade. Marchers from many different unions held signs reading “UPMC: Stop Bullying Pittsburgh” and “Make it Our UPMC.”
In December, the National Labor Relations Board released a 30-page complaint containing more than 80 allegations of unfair labor practices by UPMC executives and managers. And in March, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl announced the city would challenge the nonprofit status of UPMC, citing its failure to meet three out of five parameters to be considered a nonprofit.
UPMC responded to those claims with the following statement:
"The average compensation for full-time service workers including superior health benefits, retirement benefits that include both a defined benefits pension plan and a savings plan with employer matching contributions, and generous paid time off from work is $21/hour. That means that the lowest paid full-time employees at UPMC earn $21 per hour with benefits."
The statement continued:
"UPMC's compensation package far exceeds what other industries offer, and we continue to provide benefits most major corporations and governments are reducing or eliminating."
Potential contenders for the governor’s race planned to attend, including State Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-Montgomery County), State Treasurer Rob McCord, former Auditor General Jack Wagner and former state Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen McGinty.
McGinty and her supporters set up shop at the corner of Grant Street and Sixth Avenue. She said it’s time for a change in the governor’s office.
“Look we’ve got terrific workforce, we’ve got terrific natural resources, we’ve got terrific training, technical skills, (and) universities," McGinty said. "We ought to be leading the country."
Instead, McGinty said Pennsylvania is at the back of the pack.
“There’s one job that has to change and that’s the governor’s job," she said. "It’s time for a real leader.”
So far only McGinty and Schwartz are officially running but McCord is expected to enter the race soon.
Current governor Tom Corbett is considered one of the most vulnerable in the nation with a recent Franklin and Marshall poll showing only 20 percent of respondents think Corbett should be re-elected next fall.
Correction: An earlier version of this report incorrectly stated that former UPMC workers said they were laid off because of their union activities. The employees say they were fired. This report has been updated.