We here at the Comet realize UPMC and other large aggregators of non-profit wealth must contribute a fairer share of their immense profits to municipalities and school districts -- or else these institutions will cease functioning and be unable to maintain conditions for innovation and research to thrive.
We cannot center an economy around transactions we cannot tax.
But Pittsburgh already has several movements working on that in regards to UPMC, so what the heck dark sorcery is this??
Though SEIU Healthcare affirmed its link to Fair Share Pittsburgh, there's little else known about the group. The mayor, whose picture and words are featured prominently in one of the fliers, did not know for certain Thursday who was behind the campaign and said he assumed it was SEIU.
State Sen. Jim Ferlo and city Controller Michael Lamb, both members of Make It Our UPMC, also said they didn't know anything about the group.
SEIU Healthcare offered only this statement about the group:
"Fair Share Pittsburgh is a project of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania that has been informed by the many voices of healthcare workers, patients and taxpayers who believe that it's time for UPMC to start acting like a real charity by paying its fair share to support transit and schools, ensuring healthcare access regardless of economic or insurance status, and creating good, family-sustaining jobs for our community," Neil Bisno, who heads SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, wrote in an email statement.
He did not respond to follow-up questions.
The group's glossy, multi-color mailers, professional website and Facebook page point to a pricey campaign. (P-G, Moriah Balingit)
Twelve impolitic thoughts on this:
1) Political Pittsburgh is far, far too small for nobody to have any knowledge of this campaign. Who does everyone think they're kidding?
2) These mailers with the Mayor's picture on the front are going out before an election. We know our mayor enjoys pictures of and references to himself.
3) We know the Mayor is actively campaigning in this election.
4) Ravenstahl was long and notoriously against inconveniencing UPMC in any way before he dramatically came out for a legal challenge of their nonprofit status only this spring.
5) We have been given to suspect that many local labor organizers would like to see Ravenstahl's lawsuit settled out of court, in such a manner that the healthcare giant will agree to allow certain of its workers to unionize -- while its profits remain tax-exempt.
6) SEIU Local 32BJ is supporting Councilman Bill Peduto for a variety of stances he has taken in City government. However, SEIU-PA with its statewide spin-offs is officially "neutral" ... though it has excellent personal relationships in the Mayor's office.
7) Ask literally any former Occupier: Of all the wonderful unions that were part of that grungy "We Are the 99%" jag, SEIU-PA was always the one whose organizers employed the most guarded talking points, nervous control over events and the most complex agendas. Eventually they developed a reputation as a "very staff-driven union" as opposed to a "worker driven" one. By the time we Occupiers learned enough to distinguish among unions and understand SEIU-PA organizers' professional predicaments, it was always great fun to debate politics, tactics and strategy with them until they'd grow pale and silent.
8) Councilman Bill Peduto seems to be clear on the point that if any enormous enterprise fails the HUP test, by law it should be paying taxes to support public services, public infrastructure, public schools and public transit. He says UPMC and Highmark are clearly "in the same category". Meanwhile, true to form, Jack Wagner seems to be clear on little besides supporting the mayor's strategy at the moment.
9) Dan Onorato now works for Highmark.
10) Luke Ravenstahl will be looking for a job soon.
11) Ravenstahl may desire to build the political capital to seal this "deal" with UPMC (a tax giveaway in exchange for SEIU organizing) as a lame duck before handing over the reigns of his administration to a new figurehead.
12) It's the lack of openness and transparency that's getting to me about this "Fair Share Pittsburgh" campaign. And only potentially, the lack of solidarity.