Anniversaries took center stage Saturday on Devonshire Street.
One was worth celebrating. Amy Davis of the Baltimore Sun Guild and her husband, Bob Cronan, a former Sun employee and guild member, celebrated their 34th year of marriage by joining striking Pittsburgh Post-Gazette workers at a “Shame on the Blocks Party” in front of PG publisher and editor-in-chief John Robinson Block’s Shadyside house.
The other anniversary, when announced, brought jeers from the crowd, for it noted the passing of six years since the expiration of union contracts at the Post-Gazette.
Davis and Cronan drove in from Baltimore on Friday to join striking workers picketing outside the PG’s North Shore newsroom, then stuck around for Saturday’s party.
The two have been among those closely following the strike and the issues facing striking PG workers — health care, stagnant wages, job security. Those issues are all too familiar to Davis and her colleagues. “You love what you do, and owners take advantage of that,” she said. She arrived bearing good news — her guild had made a sizable donation to the Pittsburgh unions’ strike fund.
Cronan added that the PG strike is getting ever more attention across the country. “People outside of Pittsburgh are noticing this, we’re looking at it,” he said. “We’re rooting for you guys.”
People began gathering on the sunny Devonshire side before 11 a.m. to pick up newly printed yard signs showing solidarity for the strike and to picnic with pizza, sing solidarity tunes led by Edwin Everhart of the Pittsburgh Union Choir and enjoy a slice of an “unhappy anniversary” cake noting the six years of PG intransigence in contract negotiations.
Mel Packer, longtime social justice and labor activist, gave partygoers tips on how to assemble the signs and helped pass them out — and more than 300 were distributed.
Striker Steve Mellon, a PG employee for more than 25 years, addressed the crowd, which included members of a number of other unions, and thanked them for their continued support for a strike that’s about to enter its seventh month.
Next, striker Natalie Duleba said she wished the Block family had demonstrated even a portion of the care strikers have received from each other and supporters. “This is a hard fight and one we are determined to win,” she said, “and we’ll do that with all of your help.”
Block’s neighbors then heard the voices of dozens who joined in singing traditional labor songs led by Everhart, a regular presence at guild rallies. Often the lyrics were modified to let the swanky neighborhood know that its members had provided cause for the gathering. During one chorus of the labor favorite “We Shall Not Be Moved,” the crowd sang, “Whatever Mr. Block said, we shall not be moved.”
Emily Walker of Service Employees International Union’s local 32BJ traveled from Harrisburg to attend the rally with colleague Jenis Walsh, 32BJ’s Pittsburgh political coordinator. Walker brought a megaphone and led the crowd in a series of chants that energized the crowd and punctuated the day’s message.
“What do we want?” she asked.
“Fair contract,” the crowd responded.
“When do we want it?”
The PUP is the publication of the striking workers at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.