Fight for 15 demonstration attracts hundreds from Pitt, worker unions
February 26, 2016 6:46 PM
Angelia Kemper, SEIU member and food service worker at Pitt, rallies Friday afternoon near the Cathedral of Learning.
Demonstrators at the University of Pittsburgh in Oakland walked down Fifth and Forbes avenues Friday near the Cathedral of Learning to protest high tuition rates coupled with low wages for university workers
By Daniel Moore / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Hundreds of students, staff and faculty at the University of Pittsburgh assembled in the bitter cold Friday afternoon to rally for better wages and more of a say in how the school is run.
Hosted by the United Students Against Sweatshops, the demonstration drew members affiliated with a wide range of student organizations and workers unions, including the Service Employees International Union and the United Steelworkers. The USW in January officially began an ambitious organizing campaign at Pitt, targeting some 5,000 faculty and almost 3,000 graduate employees.
Speakers at the rally, which took place below the Cathedral of Learning on a blocked-off Bigelow Boulevard, portrayed the event as the beginning of a unified movement between students, faculty and staff to challenge the school’s administration. Building on the momentum of the “Fight for $15” minimum wage movement, Pitt student Cai Pang told participators everyone at the school needed to work together to fight for a common goal.
“Around the country, we’re seeing this trend of corporatization of higher education,” said Pitt student Cai Pang. “Our universities are treated like businesses, our students are treated like customers, our staff are treated like” garbage. He pointed out the diversity in the crowd. “This is what solidarity looks like.”
Robin Clarke, a lecturer in the English Department, said part-time faculty at Pitt make as little as $3,000 a semester. At first, she thought the faculty’s organization was separate issue from movements among students and staff. But she said, “I’m seeing the very fabric of the university being eroded by lack of faculty voice.”
“Your fight is our fight,” Ms. Clarke said. ”We cannot deliver the education you deserve if we don’t have job security, if we don’t have enough money to pay our bills.”
Protesters then marched to UPMC Presbyterian on Fifth Avenue and a McDonald’s on Forbes Ave. to speak out against poverty and low wages.
Daniel Moore: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-2743 and Twitter @PGdanielmoore.
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