By Natalie Greene, Pittsburgh UNITED Researcher
Two significant events coincided on March 14th on the 3rd Floor of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Downtown Pittsburgh. At one end of the Convention Center union members, environmentalists, policy-makers, community members, and Partnership for Working Families activists came together in Pittsburgh for the Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference, a historic joint effort by the United Steelworkers of America and the Sierra Club. At the other end of the Convention Center, the Stadium Authority of the City of Pittsburgh scheduled a meeting to discuss selling a parcel of land for the development of a new $27.5 million Hyatt Place Hotel.
This presented a golden opportunity to Pittsburgh UNITED. Pittsburgh UNITED coalition partners, joined by national allies, testified at the hearing about the need for a Community Benefits Agreement around the new hotel to the five-member board of the Stadium Authority. “CBAs are occurring all around the country and often are completed before the developers go before government authorities and commissions for land sales and development approvals,” explained Aditi Vaidya from the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy in Northern California. Mary Jo Connelly of Community Labor United in Boston pressed the authority to ensure a CBA is completed because the world is watching them. Partners and allies from far and wide, also including the Teamsters International and Sierra Club, highlighted the national stature of PWF, the growing CBA movement and the organizing power of our community-labor-environmental coalitions.
The Stadium Authority owns the prime real estate where the Three Rivers Stadium once stood on the Northshore of the city of Pittsburgh. Having already sold off three parcels of that land for the development of two office buildings, the hotel would be the fourth parcel sold and the most immediate opportunity for Northside residents to finally receive something back from the development occurring in their own neighborhood. In our organizing efforts, Pittsburgh UNITED has found that while the Northshore is doing well, many areas of the Northside communities are being left behind.
Five years ago, the authority gave the development rights for the majority of its land to the Pittsburgh Steelers football team and Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team with the expectation that the land would be developed piece-by-piece within 15 years. The Steelers-Pirates developers are behind schedule. And while the developers argued that any delay in the process or additional requests, such as a CBA, would be burdensome to Northshore developers, the authority did not agree. The authority unanimously voted to wait 45 days to sell the land for the hotel to allow the developers time to meet with Pittsburgh UNITED and negotiate a CBA.
Our PWF and other national allies are right – the world is watching Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Stadium Authority took heed. Hopefully, this landmark decision to delay the development process sends a message to developers that real community decision-making power is going to be required as a part of major economic development projects in many great cities in our country, including Pittsburgh.
Written by Natalie Greene, Researcher, with assistance from Tom Hoffman, Executive Director, on March 24, 2008.