Barney Oursler, Executive Director, Pittsburgh UNITED

Barney Oursler is the executive director of Pittsburgh UNITED. Beginning in the late 1960s, Barney first organized for student power in high school and college as well as in opposition to the Vietnam War. In graduate school he led a three-year union recognition campaign, eventually leaving school to organize throughout the State University of New York system. When the graduate staff failed to ultimately win a union, Barney went to work in a steel mill to learn more about unions. Barney became a local union officer and organized in the Steelworkers Fight Back movement in the 1970s. As steel and other manufacturing industries closed in the 1980s in Pittsburgh, he helped found the Mon Valley Unemployed Committee (MVUC) which mobilized thousands of workers to pass state and federal legislation over the next 25 years. As co-director of the MVUC, he helped pass the only law protecting unemployed people from mortgage foreclosure in the country and shaped federal laws for trade-impacted workers. In the 1990s, after building a statewide organization to respond to KKK and Neo-Nazi activity in Pennsylvania, Barney became a leader of a four-year living wage campaign through the Alliance for Progressive Action (Pittsburgh’s Jobs with Justice chapter). He became Organizing Director and then Executive Director of Pittsburgh UNITED in 2008.

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