Letter of support for United Museum Workers

On June 20, workers at four of Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museums announced their campaign to win recognition as the United Museum Workers union. Many in the labor movement associate Andrew Carnegie with violent anti-unionism, and now — only a short distance from the sites of the Homestead Strike and the 1889 Johnstown flood — workers are organizing with United Steelworkers for the right to collectively bargain. 

As socialists, we believe that the union is one of the greatest tools of the working class. We stand in full support of the United Museum Workers. 

Despite their work preserving priceless artifacts, pieces of art and fossils, it is not uncommon that museum workers receive wages of only $8 an hour, and with a schedule short enough that the museum can avoid covering benefits. 

Even as they educate the public, workers face difficulty in developing their own knowledge and professional skills, as management obscures hiring and advancement opportunities.

The pandemic pushed these issues to a breaking point. The museum pleads poverty despite having several large endowments and a Board of Trustees that includes several politicians, UPMC executives, and numerous CEOs. 

It is only appropriate that the museum workers have joined with the United Steelworkers in forming their union. For it is the blood, sweat and exploitation of steelworkers in the late 19th century that funded the creation of the Carnegie Museums. 

The United Museum Workers serve an important role in preserving art, scientific collections and ideas from the past. They are scientists, educators and art handlers. They work as research lab assistants, grant writers and web developers. Visitors see them at the front desks and as event ushers. In all of these roles, they provide crucial education services and inspire people of all communities to take an interest in the world we live in. 

These workers are incredibly passionate, but that passion has been slowly drained through years of exploitation. In addition, they were forced back to work in the middle of a deadly pandemic, to put their lives at risk to keep the institution running. Many have done this without benefits like health insurance, and none have received hazard pay, while the CEO collects a half-million dollar salary (as of 2018). 

The nonprofit industry is not exempt from exploitation and abuse, and their workers should not be exempt from demanding a share of the revenue they generate. 

Unions give workers power to control their wages and hours, working conditions and benefits, but they also mean more: Unions change the power dynamics of the workplace and allow workers to stand against a capitalist system that exploits the working class. 

Just as in the recent successful Carnegie Library union campaign, the institutions that Carnegie created out of a Gilded Age sense of philanthropy are unionizing — with workers joining together to secure a better quality of life. 

While the steel mills in Homestead are long gone, the working class in Pittsburgh still fights for better wages, safer conditions and a share of power in the city’s modern industries.

-Pittsburgh DSA Labor Committee

“What does labor want? We want more schoolhouses and less jails; more books and less arsenals; more learning and less vice; more leisure and less greed; more justice and less revenge; in fact, more of the opportunities to cultivate our better natures, to make manhood more noble, womanhood more beautiful, and childhood more happy and bright.”

Samuel Gompers

Statement on Reproductive Justice

Pittsburgh DSA statement on reproductive justice

“Reproductive Justice (is defined) as the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.” source: SisterSong

We believe reproductive justice exists when all people, in all communities, have the resources and power to make informed and independent decisions about their genders, bodies, sexualities, and families. We recognize that the barriers to safe and healthy reproductive lives are not alone a matter of legal restrictions but are deeply rooted in social, political and economic systems of power. Reproductive justice is a transformative framework, and our vision centers the leadership of the communities most impacted by reproductive oppression to remedy power inequalities and create long-term, systemic change.

The reproductive justice framework recognizes that all individuals are members of families and communities and that our strategies must lift up entire communities in order to support individuals. Intersectional feminism and reproductive justice are central to our ideals as democratic socialists. We are committed to reproductive health and autonomy in all its dimensions, including the economic dimension, which too often restricts the scope of reproductive choice and harms the well-being of individuals and families.

The current political climate has highlighted that vulnerable populations include patients, their families, clinic escorts, healthcare professionals and abortion providers. Specifically, abortion providers and their staff have faced harassment, threats, and violence for many years and have endeavored to make their clinics as safe and comfortable as possible for their employees, volunteers and the people who rely on their services. In particular, Pittsburgh’s chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America recognizes two essential agencies providing reproductive health care in Allegheny County: The Allegheny Reproductive Health Center and Planned Parenthood of Western PA.

We condemn the dubious practices of Crisis Pregnancy Centers, which spread dangerous misinformation, prey on low income families, and target communities of color throughout the region. We believe that comprehensive health care providers, their committed staff, and reproductive rights organizations that center the needs of people in our communities are the foremost authorities on reproductive justice. For this reason, we look to the leadership of these organizations in our efforts to protect and expand abortion rights and other reproductive rights. The occasion of patients’ appointments should never be a staging ground for conflict, and to treat them as such would only place yet another barrier between those in need of safe, affordable, and legal care and the agencies able to provide that care.

As we fight for reproductive justice, we aspire to amplify the voices of our community composed of patients, their families, clinic escorts, healthcare professionals, community organizers and abortion providers. The Pittsburgh DSA affirms a strong commitment to all fighting for reproductive justice.