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. 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