Pittsburgh Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak said in a news conference Tuesday that workers at UPMC are fighting the same fight many of their grandparents and great-grandparents fought many years ago.
“We should take a page from history," she said. "We shouldn’t have to wait for decades and fight those same battles over and over. We need to stand up now, and that’s what we’re doing.”
Rudiak was joined by City Council President Darlene Harris and Councilman Bruce Kraus as she condemned the latest labor violations that the National Labor Relations Board claims UPMC has committed.
“The NLRB has actually issued a second historic complaint against UPMC, alleging that UPMC has engaged in at least 47 separate instances of intimidation, harassment, discrimination, surveillance and illegal firing of workers in violation of federal law,” Rudiak said.
The complaint, which was issued last week, alleges that the firing of Ron Oakes, Jim Staus and two other workers was illegal.
Staus worked as a supply specialist at UPMC and says he consistently received satisfactory performance reviews, until he began rallying co-workers to form a union.
“They put me on a performance improvement plan after 7 ½ years,” Staus said. “In other words, they told me I was inept.”
Oakes, a transport worker, was fired from UPMC last year and was reinstated in February after UPMC settled an earlier NLRB complaint.
“UPMC promised in February to stop harassing, threatening and firing workers who supported the union, but they didn’t keep that promise,” Oakes said. “They fired me a second time, and once again, the board alleges that was illegal too.”
At Tuesday's news conference, Rudiak invoked Pittsburgh’s union history, much as she has in previous public statements about UPMC.
“We are going to keep speaking out for the workers of UPMC, who are our constituents, who are our neighbors, who are our friends and family,” Rudiak said. “They deserve a living wage, they deserve benefits, they deserve to be a part of the middle class, which is what this city was built on.”
A hearing regarding the NLRB complaint will be held on Dec. 16. UPMC has denied any wrongdoing and has until Oct. 15 to file a rebuttal to the NLRB complaint. A UPMC spokeswoman declined to comment about Tuesday's news conference.