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Health Care Rally at Centre City Tower
by Tim Vining Friday, Oct. 08, 2004 at 9:18 AM 412-361-3022

The Thomas Merton Center names Centre City Tower "local symbol" and "strategic target" in an ongoing healthcare rights campaign.

For Immediate Release Contact:
October 8, 2004 Tim Vining 412-361-3022

“Healthcare and Justice Direct Action at Centre City Tower”
Community organizations led by the Thomas Merton Center name Centre City Tower “local symbol” of the national healthcare crisis caused by rising costs and “strategic target” in ongoing healthcare rights campaign.

Community groups organized by the Thomas Merton Center, including anti-war, religious and social-justice organizations held a demonstration to support healthcare for all at Centre City Tower, Smithfield & 7th Street on Friday, October 8 at 8:15AM “Thousands of people in Allegheny County and millions across the country are facing the same struggle as the nine janitors who were tossed out of Centre City Tower. These janitors lost their job because they were going to receive affordable family health insurance under their new union contract. The rising cost of healthcare is tearing apart this community,” says Tim Vining, Executive Director of the Thomas Merton Center.

Centre City Tower has been the sight of an ongoing labor dispute with the Service Employees International Union Local 3 since the building removed its nine janitors and union cleaning contractor and brought in PF Enterprises, a nonunion part-time company that pays little more than minimum wage and does not provide health insurance to janitors. Centre City Tower had been covered under the SEIU Master Contract that includes over 90% downtown Pittsburgh buildings over 100,000 square feet. After three months of picketing, demonstrations, 4 days of hunger strikes and 52 people arrested for civil disobedience County Executive Dan Onorato intervened urging both parties to resolve the dispute through third party mediation.

“The fight for healthcare is our fight too. These brave janitors and the work of their union to win back healthcare have inspired many advocates for social justice, elected officials and even members of the business community in Pittsburgh. Centre City Tower represents the problem facing our community. That makes them a legitimate target for our larger healthcare rights campaign. Our message to the city and Centre City Tower- This community will not accept losing our families’ healthcare. Firing workers because they need healthcare is not the answer to rising healthcare costs. This community will not stand for it,” adds Vining.

Centre City Tower is owned by Ted Knetzger and Bill Rainer. Both are out of town businessmen with ties to the Clinton Administration and significant Democratic campaign contributors. It is ironic that both the Jewish Healthcare Foundation and the Consumer Healthcare Coalition, advocates for greater access to affordable healthcare, are headquartered in the building.

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