Members of the Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network (PIIN) kicked off their campaign for economic justice with a prayer vigil outside of UPMC Presbyterian in Oakland. Nearly 100 from Pittsburgh’s low income communities ignored the bitter cold to join ministers and other people of faith as they launched PIIN’s “Love Thy Neighbor” campaign and call on the global healthcare giant to end to its anti-worker campaign and to pay all of its employees a real living wage.
With income inequality at an all-time high, we need UPMC, our city’s dominant economic actor, to do more to lift up people in poverty. Marcus Ptomey is a Unit Tech at UPMC Presby, who, like many UPMC workers, has to work more than full time every week just to get by. “There is something wrong with the picture when we work long hard hours but barely make ends meet,” said Marcus. “We take pride in being there for our community in great times of need, yet many of us must rely on the generosity of strangers to put food on our tables.”
Mobilizing people of faith to stand up against economic injustice, clergy from PIIN called on UPMC to end its anti-worker campaign and help life thousands of Pittsburgh residents out of poverty. “The faith community, through the Love thy Neighbor campaign, recognizes the moral imperative to act and call on UPMC, the largest employer in this region, to do the right thing and lift families through family sustaining wages,” said Rev. John Welch, a minister whose involvement with UPMC workers goes back more than a year, when he accompanied employees and elected leaders to the Presbyterian Hospital Board meeting, to ask Board members to put an end to UPMC’s vicious and expensive anti-union campaign.
Experts calculate that UPMC’s wages leave thousands of service workers — UPMC’s largest group of employees — living with less than Pittsburgh’s “no-frills” budget requires. They rely on food banks to put food on their tables and federal housing assistance to keep roofs over their heads. Despite being a charitable hospitals system, UPMC employs the third largest number of full time workers in our state who rely on Medicaid for health insurance, after Walmart and McDonald’s.
Reverend Rodney Lyde, a pastor to several UPMC workers, asked the crowd, “Where is the love for the service sector workers at UPMC?” Lyde called attention to the self-love of UPMC’s 27 executives that made over $1 million last year, but wondered, “Where is the love for the workers who can’t afford the world class healthcare that this hospital provides?”
Marcus Ptomey captured the resolve and hope of workers and and people of faith in our city: “Together, with the strength of God and each other, we can win this fight with UPMC. As we learned from David, the little guy with principles, a brave heart, and strong faith can stand up to giants and win.”
Together, we can Make It Our UPMC.
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