Last week’s Pittsburgh news, today #22: the modern company town

For people who might not read the news everyday, but would still like to know what's going on in Pittsburgh.

Photo © K. Gerard Painter Jr., via Pittsburgh Media Partnership.

Modern-day company town. UPMC has monopoly power and is creating a modern-day company town. Those are some of the allegations in a new report from the nonpartisan, nonprofit American Economic Liberties Project: “Critical Condition: How UPMC’s Monopoly Power Harms Workers and Patients.” Among the major takeaways, according to Beckers Hospital Review:

  • UPMC controls three out of every four hospital jobs in Allegheny County.
  • UPMC’s market concentration gives it “considerable power over workers, which it wields to keep wages low, conditions unsatisfactory, and prevent union organizing.”
  • UPMC engages in union-busting. “Any worker who attempts to organize is surveilled, harassed, intimidated, and ultimately fired,” the report alleges.
  • UPMC is understaffed, risks workers’ safety and is “unwilling to ensure the workplace conditions necessary to prevent talented workers from leaving.”
  • UPMC is “notorious for using its market power to acquire, and subsequently shut down, hospitals to reduce competition.” The hospital names two hospitals — UPMC Pinnacle Lancaster and UPMC Susquehanna Sunbury — as examples.

UPMC told reporters it needed more time to analyze the report, but criticized some of the methodology. The findings were presented by Rep. Summer Lee and State Rep. Sara Innamorato, Chris Potter reports for WESA. They also called for antitrust laws to rein in the healthcare leviathan, reports Ryan Deto for the Trib. MORE: The Gainey administration is set to look at nonprofit property tax exemptions, reports WESA.

Bridge pier for sale. For sale: the 50-foot tall former Wabash Bridge pier along the Monongahela River downtown. Steve Mellon reports for the Union Progress on its century-old history and the sacrifices made in its construction. RELATED: Interested in more Pittsburgh things that aren’t there anymore? Besides the 1990 Rick Sebak doc of the same name, check out Virginia Montanez’s new historical website: “Pittsburgh Remains to be Seen.”

Lawyer talks traffic stops. Pitt Law’s David Harris discusses the legality of Pittsburgh Police’s renewed enforcement of secondary traffic stops, as well as proposals to renew enforcement of a nighttime curfew for juveniles. Bob Mayo reports for WTAE.

City shifts homeless tactics. The recent closure of a homeless encampment was “a potential violation of the constitutional rights of people who lived there,” say two legal advocacy groups, and a marked shift in how the city deals with unhoused populations. Amelia Winger and two others report for PublicSource.

Fish filled with chemicals: People who ate just one freshwater fish last year are “likely to show a significant increase of a cancer-causing chemical in their bloodstream,” according to a news study of PFAS. Grace van Deelen reports for Truthout. RELATED: EHN reports that waste generated at PA fracking wells with documented PFAS use “has traveled to at least 97 additional sites for reuse and disposal.”

Shapiro’s nondisclosures. Unlike his predecessors, Governor Josh Shapiro required members of his transition team to sign nondisclosure agreements. Angela Couloumbis and Kate Huangpu report for Spotlight PA. RELATED: Shapiro also refuses to disclose donors to his “glitzy inaugural bash,” reports Marc Levy for the Associated Press.

Stronger soot regulations. When it comes to air pollution, perhaps nothing drives negative health outcomes in Western PA more than fine particulate matter, pieces of soot so small that they can directly enter the bloodstream. Advocates argue that new regulations set to begin later this year still aren’t strong enough for public health. Kevin Gavin reports with three others for WESA.

Baby steps for city steps: Over $7 million in federal money will help to replace and repair Pittsburgh’s network of city steps, but the funding “will only help a small fraction of the steps that need it.” Oliver Morrison reports for WESA.

More Mountain State firings: Last week, we covered a West Virginia journalist fired for reporting on abuse in the state’s foster care and psychiatric system. Around the same time, three other journalists, with the Charleston Gazette-Mail, were fired, allegedly for criticizing a softball interview with coal baron Don Blankenship. Blankenship was sentenced to federal prison for conspiracy to circumvent mine safety laws after the 2010 Upper Big Branch coal mine explosion, which killed 29 workers. John Raby reports for Fortune.

Yinzers yearn for YinzerCon. Pittsburgh’s love of all things Pittsburgh will soon have its own festival. Royce Jones reports for KDKA.

Creative Nonfiction closes up. Former members of Creative Nonfiction magazine turned to Twitter to decry sudden layoffs at the longtime, Pittsburgh-based literary magazine.

Note: In solidarity with striking Newspaper Guild workers, the Pittsburgh Independent will not share news from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Follow striking workers’ news coverage at the Pittsburgh Union Progress.

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He is a 2x 2023 Western PA Press Club Golden Quill award winner, in feature and business reporting. And a 3x finalist in the investigative reporting category.

He is a 2018 first prize winner in environmental reporting from the Keystone Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists for reporting on lead in Pittsburgh’s drinking water.

In 2022 and 2021, he was awarded a grant from The Gumshoe Group to support his investigative reporting.