They said the city should have demanded more requirements from UPMC, like a commitment to allow its workers to unionize and affordable-housing guarantees. When the vote came and those requests were ignored, only two city councilors voted against the expansion plans, Darlene Harris of the North Side, and Deb Gross of Highland Park.
Now, many from that anti-UPMC effort are backing Gross’ re-election campaign for District 7, which includes the Strip District, Lawrenceville, Polish Hill, Bloomfield and Highland Park. On March 29, Gross kicked off her campaign at Irma Freeman Center in Bloomfield.
Lou Barry, a former housekeeper at UPMC Montefiore, has long been a leader in UPMC workers’ fight for the right to unionize. He spoke at the campaign kickoff and said of he thought the UPMC vote was going to turnout differently, but was proud of the way that Gross voted.
“In the end, when it really mattered, is was Deb Gross who actually championed the working people,” said Berry.
State Rep. Sara Innamorato (D-Lawrenceville) was also at the event. She said Gross was an early backer of her campaign against former state Rep. Dom Costa (D-Stanton Heights)
Innamorato and Gross were also present during a one-day strike organized by UPMC workers last October. Innamorato said back then: “Any elected official not here today — vote them out.”
Gross said that her campaign would focus on maintaining public control of Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority and affordable-housing issues. She spoke to the crowd about the success of her plan to purchase more than 20,000 personal water filters for needy families throughout Pittsburgh who had high levels of lead in their drinking water.
She said the next step for her on city council would be to continue her fight to create more affordable housing in her district. She currently represents parts of Lawrenceville, Bloomfield and Polish Hill, which have experienced gentrification over the years.
Gross recently introduced inclusionary zoning legislation to city council, which, if passed, would require developers to include certain percentages of affordable units when they build in Lawrenceville. She said she didn’t want to see real estate speculators take over Pittsburgh, instead advocating for redevelopment that brings in new residents while maintaining homes and businesses for the longtime Pittsburghers.
“We need to continue to protect these spaces,” said Gross. “And in doing so, build the next community. This is our city.”