Find Out the Secret Recipe for PPT’s Newest Organizer, Nicole!

Meet Nicole Gallagher! PPT’s newest staff member, and the organization’s second Community Organizer.
In her own words, here’s the secret recipe:

Recipe for a PPT Organizer:

9 years labor organizer with Unite Here

20 years proud service industry worker 

A dash of local, diy Pittsburgh organizing

Several ounces of personal and family history of riding public transit 

A heavy pour of working class, immigrant family 

Shaken not stirred. 

There you have PPT’s newest community organizer, Nicole Gallagher! Her family roots and strong sense of right and wrong have made social justice work a pleasure through most of her adult life. At any meeting, you’ll hear her sharing tales from her union organizing experience at hotels in Chicago or the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh. When she’s not sharing about work, find her telling true stories at local storytelling events around the city or out hiking in the woods with her dogs. 

Join us in welcoming the newest member of the PPT family, and join a PPT Committee to get more involved with our organizing

PPT is growing and so is our movement. This is big news for public transit organizing in Pittsburgh. Nicole has lived and organized in Pittsburgh for over a decade. She has worked on a spectrum of issues – from workers rights, to healthcare access, to sex-positive education. PPT couldn’t be more excited for her to bring that perspective into the organizing. Good things are to come.

After some good debate summer about the tradeoffs of creating a larger staff, the PPT Board decided to add a second Community Organizer and bring PPT’s paid staff up to four full-time members. This position double’s the organizign capacity at PPT, which allows us to further-develop existing PPT members as leaders and build stronger connections with new constituencies. The Board’s central goal with the new position is to build a stronger, more engaged grassroots base of leaders. Because we know this will translate to winning more campaigns for better public transit and more affordable housing access for Pittsburghers.

Learn a little more about Nicole by reading her bio and some interview answers below.

As a person raised in a working class, immigrant family in Chicago, public transit has been a vital part of Nicole Gallagher’s life from the get-go. She grew up hearing stories of how her grandmother learned to speak English on the bus and accompanied her mother on grocery runs, often helping with the arduous task of navigating a shopping cart full of groceries on the bus ride home. A proud waitress, Nicole spent nearly a decade organizing with the labor union, Unite Here. At any meeting, you’ll hear her sharing tales from her union organizing experience at hotels in Chicago or the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh. When she’s not sharing about work, find her telling true stories at local storytelling events around the city or out hiking in the woods with her dogs.

The PPT team is excited to have you on board! What drew you to the work that PPT is doing? 

I have always been a fighter, drawn to standing up for what is right. Nothing is as powerful and beautiful to me as being a part of people taking control and changing their lives. I still get a rush when I think of some of the unionization actions I participated in at the Rivers Casino. Organizing is real magic to me. For years I had been hearing that PPT was doing really great organizing in Pittsburgh. I felt that if I were going to organize full time again, it had to be with the real deal and it had to be at the intersection of so many urgent issues in Pittsburgh, which is where PPT is at. 

What’s your experience with Pittsburgh transit? What routes have you ridden during different parts of your life? How has the system changed for you?

When I first moved to Pittsburgh I started riding the 91, 88, 86 and 87 from my houses in Lawrenceville and later Bloomfield. When I worked at the casino, I used to love parking in their lot for free and riding the T into downtown. I’ve always preferred to bike when the weather is nice. Now that I live on the northside I ride the 6. My last job in the service industry demanded that I work late hours, so I started driving more because I was scared of getting stranded on the other side of town in the middle of the night. This has given me a real understanding of the cost of living off of a bus line that is not as accessible. I look forward to riding the bus more now with the perspective of someone who can help make a difference.

What work are you excited to do? What victories do you think you’ll help us win in the coming months?

I’m learning a lot about the service cuts and operator shortage since the pandemic. These issues feel very winnable to me! If there are resources for new infrastructure, there are resources to restore service and hire drivers.

What inspires you? What gives you energy that you want to share with others?

I am inspired by people’s stories, in particular those of overcoming struggle. I remember being 10 or 11 years old, watching a PBS documentary about the Civil Rights Movement and feeling in awe as I watched Dr. Martin Luther King lead a march. I vowed to myself right then that I would dedicate my life to serving others. I don’t think I really even understood what I was saying to myself, but through the years I have felt that grow inside of me and become a reality. People’s resilience AMAZES me everyday. 

What is your favorite pump-up song?

I love music, so I’m gonna share a few of my favorite pump-up songs:

1. The Coup, Favorite Mutiny – used to listen to this song on my way to the casino to get myself in the mood when I was about to confront management. 

2. Beyonce, Big Ego – I listen to this when I’m anxious and doubting myself. Nothing like a solo dance party to feel oneself.

3. Julie Andrews, My Favorite Things – I listened to this at the casino when I was faced with anti union coworkers who liked to angrily confront me. It reminded me that there was sweetness in the world. When I’m sad, it lifts my mood to remember how I got through those rough days. 

Check out our Coordinating Committee and Staff page to see the core team of organizers who lead PPT, and volunteer on a PPT Committee to get involved