EDITORIAL -- G-20 plans on course: Union participation is an important step

Written by Susan Mannella on .

It is good to see Pittsburghers organizing themselves relatively early for the G-20 summit scheduled to take place here Sept. 24-25.

Although it is important to remember that Pittsburgh is the host and venue of the conference, not the subject of it, it will nonetheless provide the city an opportunity to present itself in its best light. It can emphasize its strengths and unique assets to good effect. Pittsburgh should continue to bear in mind that the people coming are in particular the economic and financial movers and shakers of their countries -- in other words, those who might think of the place when they are considering important future job-creating investments and deals.

Thinking of the "best light" criterion, it is a pity that the Steelers will be playing away and that the Penguins' season will not yet have started. Unless the Pirates' lamentable tendency to sell off every single one of their useful players can be stemmed, it also will be just as well that their season will be nearing its likely ignominious close at that point. This is not a gratuitous crack: Pittsburgh is famous worldwide for its sometimes stunning successes in sports.

It appears that local authority for the final schedule to be put together for the event by the federal government at all levels will lie in the hands of Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and apparently Allegheny Conference for Economic Development CEO Dennis Yablonsky.

That does not mean that other decision-makers will be excluded from the process. It is important, in fact, that they be included, and the financial support being provided by companies, foundations and universities is in Pittsburgh's finest tradition. In the end, of course, someone has to sort out the competing interests and present Washington a coherent picture of what Pittsburgh as host has in mind.

It is particularly important that the unions, in the form of the United Steelworkers and two other important groups, have signed on to the process. It is preferable in terms of the overall picture the city presents that the unions be on board, as opposed to outside the tent, perhaps aligning with the various protest groups that have signaled an intention to turn up. At the London G-20 summit the USW president, Leo Gerard, was a prominent speaker against globalization, one of the key issues at that summit.

In the meantime, it behooves Pittsburghers to make an effort to inform themselves about the issues that will be discussed at the G-20 summit, even though our role in consideration of them will be limited.

It will also be important -- and fun, as well -- to be aware of the sparkling array of world figures who will be coming to spend even a little time with us during the summit. Each one of them, from our own President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama to Italy's Silvio Berlusconi, who makes even gubernatorial philanderer Mark Sanford of South Carolina look minor league, should be people whose lives and careers Pittsburghers follow between now and the summit in order to know our guests. Such is the spice of life.



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