KDKA Investigates: SEIU Healthcare’s affect over Mayor Ed Gainey’s administration

KDKA Investigates: SEIU Healthcare’s affect over Mayor Ed Gainey’s administration

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Who’s operating the town of Pittsburgh: Mayor Ed Gainey or SEIU Healthcare?

The well being care union spent tons of of hundreds of {dollars} to get the mayor elected. A union vice chairman co-chaired his transition committee, and different former union officers now maintain key positions in his administration.

The query is, is SEIU Healthcare really dictating coverage, orchestrating a struggle with UPMC by demanding the hospital big permit the union to symbolize its well being care staff?

KDKA-TV obtained emails to attempt to shed some gentle.

Allegheny County Govt Wealthy Fitzgerald attended the groundbreaking ceremony of the brand new 17-story, $1.6 billion UPMC Presbyterian Hospital Tower, a challenge which is able to carry hundreds of development and everlasting jobs to the town.

“All the parents who will come collectively to construct this over the following couple of years, and the roles that shall be created right here,” Fitzgerald added on the groundbreaking on June 14, 2022.

Then-gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro attended the occasion, however conspicuously absent was Gainey, who since changing into mayor, has declined to attend all UPMC occasions. This contains the position of the ultimate beam on the new UPMC Mercy Hospital, one other indication of dangerous blood between the town and the area’s largest employer.

“At this time, I’m signing an govt order directing my legislation and finance division to conduct a evaluate of properties owned by organizations claiming tax exemption primarily based on their charitable standing,” Gainey mentioned at a press convention on Jan. 24, 2023.

After taking workplace, Mayor Gainey had promised to satisfy with UPMC and the three different main non-profits — Pitt, Carnegie Mellon College and Allegheny Well being Community — to barter PILOTS (funds to the town in lieu of taxes), however as an alternative, he is now difficult the tax-exempt standing of their particular person properties.

“We’re right here to guard the taxpayer and be sure that everyone pays their justifiable share,” mentioned Mayor Gainey.

A number of sources inform KDKA-TV talks between the town of Pittsburgh and UPMC broke down, not over cash, however over Mayor Gainey’s demand that UPMC permit SEIU Healthcare to symbolize its well being care staff, leaving a $40 million dedication from UPMC on the desk.

KDKA-TV requested Lisa Frank, the chief working and administrative officer for the town of Pittsburgh, if the town demanded that UPMC permit the union at Presbyterian Hospital and all through its system as a part of these negotiations.

“The mayor, I feel you understand, has at all times been on the facet of staff,” Frank mentioned in response.

SEIU Healthcare has tried unsuccessfully to unionize these staff for greater than a decade and two years in the past turned the first backer of Mayor Gainey’s election marketing campaign. Based on marketing campaign finance filings, it spent greater than $350,000 to elect Gainey, greater than all different contributors mixed.

In flip, Gainey appointed SEIU vice chairman and political director Silas Russel to co-chair his transition committee and named others to key spots in his administration — former SEIU Healthcare communications director Maria Montaño is his press secretary and the union’s former vice chairman Lisa Frank is now the town’s chief working and administrative officer.

“The union’s job is the union’s job. The mayor’s job is the mayor’s job,” mentioned Frank when requested if the mayor is doing the union’s bidding.

Whereas Frank was evasive, the mayor’s press secretary issued this assertion denying the mayor demanded an SEIU union at his assembly with UPMC CEO Leslie Davis in June of 2022:

“The mayor has lengthy been a supporter of the precise of working individuals to come back collectively for aa union and a voice at work … In a gathering with UPMC, he requested them to take a seat down and hearken to their staff, nevertheless, he has not made any calls for.”

The outcomes of a KDKA Investigates Proper to Know Request inform a special story. Within the days earlier than the assembly, there’s a flurry of emails between native SEIU Healthcare head Russell and administration higher-ups making ready the mayor’s speaking factors. They make express calls for for a union with Russell really dictating lots of these factors.

“You (Mayor Gainey) need to have the ability to have a partnership with UPMC, to collaborate with them on main growth and social initiatives within the metropolis … Earlier than that’s doable nevertheless, you (Davis) must decide to: A good election association with SEIU to carry an finish to the lengthy and contentious dispute between UPMC and its frontline staff.”

After reviewing the primary draft, Russell provides extra factors resembling: “You additionally consider that the workforce disaster in healthcare is so urgent we can’t afford to see continued battle and disruption.” That are added verbatim to the ultimate preparation notes then despatched to the mayor.

Sources say UPMC rejected the demand, telling the mayor they’re keen to debate funds lieu of taxes however not their inside labor relations.

The 2 sides haven’t met since. UPMC declined remark, however in an announcement, Russell defended SEIU Healthcare’s affect saying, “Each well being care employee ought to have the power to kind a union … we predict each elected official needs to be working to carry UPMC accountable and guarantee hospital staff have a voice at work.”

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