I am Reverend Lyde and I was Arrested for Standing Up to UPMC

Yesterday, I proudly joined 10 other clergy members from the Pennsylvania Interfaith Action Network (PIIN) to ask for a meeting with UPMC CEO, Jeffrey Romoff.LYDE For Amelia Instead of listening to our concerns, UPMC left us out in the cold. As we approached the USX building they locked the doors and told the police to arrest us. We stood our ground and refused to leave. A crowd of over 100 of our congregants and other community members stood in the freezing cold as the police escorted us away.

We called on UPMC to “love thy neighbor” and instead, they arrested thy neighbor. Our arrests are just one more example of UPMC shutting out the community and failing to hear our concerns.

Standing in the freezing cold in handcuffs is nothing compared to the hardship UPMC workers face every day. UPMC cafeteria grill cook Joe Kennedy brought it home for us as he spoke to the crowd.

“I can’t run a household on what UPMC pays,” he said. “I am eligible for the food pantry. Thousands of workers who put in full-time work with the city’s largest employer should not be in that position. UPMC does not support the many workers that help run the hospital system every day.”

We all have UPMC workers like Joe in our congregations who are struggling to stay afloat on poverty. The situation we see in our communities is so dire that we’re compelled to do anything in our power to help.

As faith leaders we are tired of looking into the pews to see hardworking Pittsburghers who are forced to rely on a food pantry because their employer pays poverty wages. We’re distressed to know that the boys and girls coming up in our congregations attend crumbling schools because the region’s largest landowner pays no taxes. And we’re disgusted that the region’s largest employer prioritizes corporate jets over a living wage for hard-working Pittsburghers.

This is not the kind of Pittsburgh we want for our children and grandchildren. Pittsburgh will only thrive if we build a strong middle class.

As the region’s largest employer, UPMC sets the tone for jobs and the economy. UPMC has the power to lead. But right now they’re only leading us astray.

We envision a Pittsburgh where everyone prospers. UPMC workers deserve to be able to take care of their families just like Jeffrey Romoff. These men and women aren’t asking for the corporate jet. They’re simply asking for a living wage.

If we continue the fight, there will come a day when UPMC workers will be able to join the middle class and help make Pittsburgh strong. Until that day, we’ll continue to call on UPMC to find its morality and be a better member of this community.

– Reverend Rodney Lyde, Baptist Temple Church

 

 

 

 

 

UPMC Can Help Strengthen Pittsburgh, Experts and Workers Tell City Council

Good jobs, healthcare access and quality investment in our communities. That was the focus of Wednesday’s hearing held by City Councilthe Pittsburgh City Council in order to shine a light on the widespread harm UPMC is inflicting on our communities in its unwillingness to invest in good jobs for a stronger Pittsburgh.

For too long, UPMC has been benefiting from our communities without paying its fair share in return. A host of experts, UPMC employees, patients and elected officials offered wide-ranging testimony that called our region’s largest employer out for its uncharitable ways.

UPMC workers spoke out about the unfairness of earning poverty wages within a healthcare enterprise making billions. “Even with my experience and extra training I still only make $11.97 an hour,” said Chaney Lewis, a transporter at UPMC Presbyterian. “For four out of the nine years I have been at UPMC, I worked through a wage freeze at $9.76 per hour, a starting wage only $1 more than what my mother made there 20 years ago when she was a UPMC housekeeper.”

While the strain caused by UPMC’s low wages have had a ripple effect on our region’s economy, UPMC’s attempts to quash its competition has threatened healthcare access for thousands who need it.  “I regularly get messages from people living with HIV, Parkinson’s, cancer or other serious illness who are fearful that their health will be compromised because they’ll be forced to leave a provider who has been charged with their care for years,” said State Rep. Dan Frankel from Allegheny County, who also testified on Wednesday. In response, Rep Frankel and Rep. Christiana from Beaver County have introduced House Bills 1621 and 1622 to ensure that healthcare providers like UPMC cannot deny patients on the sole basis of their type of insurance card.

This gathering of voices is the latest example of Pittsburgh citizens, politicians and patients standing up to say enough to UPMC’s disregard of our community’s welfare – from faith leaders risking arrest to hundreds of UPMC nurses from Altoona marching through the streets of downtown Pittsburgh.  Together, we are joining hands all across the city to hold UPMC accountable to Pittsburgh’s families and our collective future.

“The key question facing Pittsburgh and our nation today is whether workers, communities, and elected officials once again have the courage and the conviction to build a new – in this case, 21st century – American middle class,” Keystone Research Economist Stephen Herzenberg said. “Without lifting the wage floor in the region’s dominant employer in its dominant service industry, Pittsburgh cannot rebuild its middle class. It’s as simple as that.”