My Name is Mary Hughes, and I am a UPMC employee. My coworkers and I are calling on UPMC to create good jobs for a strong and healthy Pittsburgh. Will you join us and sign our online petition?
I have worked as a medical transcriptionist in the imaging department for the past 8 years. People sometimes think that transcriptionists just copy out what the doctors say, and ask “where’s the skill in that?” But the truth is we have to know a LOT about medicine to get he notes right. Every day we catch the little human errors that doctors make, and it’s our job to call them up and ask if we should make a correction. That’s the role we play in keeping patients safe and healthy.
I am very proud of the work I do. But my work is not all of me. I am not an expendable person who can be worked until the end of their life without any life for themselves. Nobody is expendable and it is wrong when employers treat people as if they are.
My mother was widowed at 43 and didn’t have a fancy education, so she went to work as a housekeeper. She cleaned healthcare facilities for 20 years. She tried to teach me the advice her father gave her: “If all you’re doing is sweeping the floor, be the best floor sweeper they’ve got.”
It’s good advice, but it’s not enough. My mother is old now, worn out, frail and sick. Her time is almost gone. When I hear her coughing in her bed at night, trying to clear the fluid her weakened heart can no longer cope with, I wish her life had something in it other than hard work. I wish she had enjoyed some of the richness that the people she worked for enjoyed. I wish she had not been used up to the point that she could no longer give.
At UPMC, the people around me are getting used up. They work hard – too hard – since everybody puts in overtime to make their paychecks bigger. And even with all that, many rely on foodbanks and other forms of assistance to feed themselves and their families. It feels as if nobody is making enough to live, let alone to start to see work pay off.
And at UPMC, even workers who make a good living can’t count on it. This year hundreds of skilled UPMC transcriptionists were plunged into poverty when UPMC sold them to Nuance, a company that pays so little for a line of transcription that it had to supplement one of my former colleague’s paycheck to reach minimum. Many of these workers had served UPMC for 20 and 30 years. They are still transcribing for UPMC hospitals, but their lives have been devastated.
Here’s the worst thing: even as people work themselves sick, or fall into medical debt with their very employer, or fear sudden financial ruin, UPMC makes it very clear that to speak out or try to get make changes is not tolerated. UPMC’s workplaces are places of fear.
UPMC is using all of its wealth and power to silence workers who are trying to make their lives better. To know for sure that their kids won’t go hungry at some time during the month. To be able to get the care they need in the hospital that they clean.
The work we do matters, and we deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. We need UPMC to work with us, and to create good jobs and help us make a stronger, healthier Pittsburgh.
UPMC Medical Transcriptionist