Parkhurst food service workers at Robert Morris University allege unfair labor practices

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Parkhurst workers rally with congressional candidates and downtown union leaders

Democratic congressional candidate Summer Lee and local union leaders rallied with Parkhurst food service workers at Robert Morris University in support of their organizing efforts, criticizing the so-called “low pay and meager benefits” and union-busting activities of their employer.

Parkhurst RMU workers are organizing with Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ. On June 2, workers and their supporters marched through downtown Pittsburgh from the offices of 32BJ SEIU to the Federal Building.

Samson Smith, a Parkhurst employee at RMU, spoke at the Federal Building about his experience battling cancer without employer-paid health care.

“It’s shameful for me that during my cancer treatment my employer Parkhurst can’t even provide me with employer paid healthcare to keep me alive. But just like my battle with cancer, I don’t never back down in our fight for dignity and respect in the workplace, and the right to form a union,” Smith said.

The workers also accused Parkhurst of unfair labor practices by monitoring and retaliating against contract restaurant workers at RMU. SEIU 32BJ says they have filed unfair labor practice charges against Parkhurst with the NLRB.

“We are not aware of any caseloads and cannot comment on pending litigation involving our team members,” Parkhurst Dining said in a statement emailed to Pittsburgh City Paper. “At Parkhurst Dining, we have a long-standing commitment to caring for our team members, respecting their individual differences and providing a welcoming work environment.”

A spokesperson for 32BJ SEIU says RMU’s non-union catering staff make it an outlier compared to other local universities.

“Contract restaurant workers at surrounding universities like the University of Pittsburgh, Duquesne University, and Carnegie Mellon University all have union restaurant workers who receive decent wages and vital benefits, unlike to Robert Morris,” the union said in a news release, saying unionized food service workers at those schools earn up to $5/hour more than their non-union counterparts from Parkhurst to RMU.

“I know these fights are tough, but we all deserve a fair fight, and when I hear these allegations of union busting and intimidation, it tells me they’re scared,” said presidential candidate Chris Deluzio. Congress for the 17th district where RMU is located. “Because they know that when you have a union you get better pay, better benefits, safer workplaces and more voice at work.”