Pittsburgh needs UPMC – the city’s largest employer, healthcare provider and landowner – to use its power and wealth to create a better future for our city. That’s why we’re all coming together to demand UPMC help build and strengthen our middle class instead of holding our families and economy back.
Join Us: Good Jobs, Healthy Pittsburgh Day of Action
MONDAY, MARCH 3
USX Tower – 600 Grant St
Spread The Word:
Download our event flyer – Click Here
Want to get involved with the action on March 3rd? Attend one of the trainings below to learn how.
General Orientation/Training for the Days of Change
Location: Smithfield Church
Time: 11AM March 1st.
What: General Information on the days of change. What to expect. Where to go and what to bring and do While you’re there. Come one and all.
Time: February 27th 10AM
What: A day of action will require lots of signs, banners, and other items for the day. Handy with a marker? Like to draw posters? This is the perfect way to help us build up our event on March 3rd!
Yesterday, workers at UPMC had a tremendous victory when the local Region of the National Labor Relations Board issued a second historic complaint against UPMC. This new complaint alleges that UPMC engaged in at least 44 separate instances of intimidation, harassment, discrimination, surveillance and illegal firings in violation of the National Labor Relations Act, and names 34 UPMC managers as having been involved in these alleged violations.
You probably remember that this February UPMC settled a different NLRB complaint which alleged that UPMC engaged in at least 80 violations of workers’ rights and named top UPMC executives as having allegedly participated in those violations. At that time, as part of the settlement, UPMC brought fired employees back to work, cleared workers’ records, and promised to respect workers’ rights to talk about the union as a way to lift themselves out of poverty.
But rather than abide by those promises, UPMC instead doubled down on its pattern of harassment, intimidation, and discrimination, even firing Ron Oakes, who had just come back to work under the settlement.
The complaint issued yesterday reveals a pattern of anti-worker behaviors that are truly disturbing. The Acting General Counsel of the Labor Board alleges, among other violations, that UPMC had:
- Illegally fired four workers, including Ron Oakes who won his job back and was allegedly illegally fired a second time
- Threatened to arrest workers for talking about the union in the cafeteria
- Retaliated against workers who testified against UPMC at the Labor Board, the federal agency charged with protecting their rights
- Interrogated, intimidated, and threatened union supporters, and conducted surveillance of union activities
A recent report issued by Pittsburgh UNITED showed that service workers — the largest category of workers employed at UPMC — earn between 8 percent to 30 percent less than what families in Pittsburgh need to make ends meet. It’s time for UPMC to truly commit to end the harassment and instead to work with employees who want to lift themselves out of poverty.
Together we can make it our UPMC
On July 17th Senator Jim Ferlo and faith leaders joined UPMC shuttle drivers to deliver a clear message that the community will not tolerate UPMC’s recent firing of shuttle driver Al Turner and crackdown on workers’ speaking out for a better life and a voice on the job. The workers and their supporters took a delegation directly to Bart Wyss, Turner’s supervisor, to demand his immediate reinstatement.
Today Senator Ferlo wrote a letter to the UPMC drivers in support of their co-worker, Al Turner.
Dear UPMC Driver:
I was impressed to learn that a strong majority of the drivers in your department signed a letter supporting Al Turner and demanding that Al be brought back to work. On July 17th, along with Al’s pastor Reverend Lyde, several UPMC employees, and a group of community allies, I participated in the delivery of that letter to your supervisor, Bart Wyss.
We were all there to support Al because, like you, we know that he is a decent man and a good worker. Simply put, we believe that Al was fired for trying to form a union and make improvements at UPMC. Al is speaking up because he believes that all UPMC workers deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. Instead of respecting his rights, Mr. Wyss and UPMC retaliated against him by taking away his livelihood.
I am becoming increasingly concerned about the reports of worker intimidation at UPMC and your department in particular. The National Labor Relations Board accused the shuttle driver management of illegal threats, surveillance, and trying to stop drivers from talking about forming a union. The unfair firing of Al is part of a pattern of intimidation. Each of you plays an important role in making UPMC the successful institution that it is. The bottom line is that you deserve to be paid a fair wage, to work with dignity, and to have a voice on the job.
I congratulate you for standing with Al and standing up for your rights. Generations of workers in western Pennsylvania uniting to improve their working conditions built the middle class in this region. Pittsburgh’s economy has changed but my unwavering commitment to workers rights has not. I promise to be there with you at every step of your struggle and will continue to work with other elected and community leaders to monitor UPMC’s conduct closely.
If you have any information about UPMC management staff violating Federal labor law or otherwise interfering with your rights, please write or call my office immediately at412-621-3006.
Senator, 38th District
The countdown has begun for the primary election May 21 and the big issue on voters’ minds is holding UPMC accountable.
A poll conducted by Victoria Research for Make It Our UPMC among likely primary voters revealed that having UPMC do its fair share was the top concern among likely primary voters. Eighty-seven percent of respondents feel UPMC should pay property taxes. The poll also revealed that an overwhelming majority of people — 73 percent of those polled – think that UPMC workers would be better off with a union.
During the recent WQED mayoral candidate forum, the candidates were asked about what they would do to hold UPMC accountable.
Here are their responses:
Jack Wagner: “If UPMC is not meeting the mandate of a nonprofit, it should be challenged.” Mr. Wagner also stated that he believes UPMC should provide all of its employees with a living wage. “There is a separation in this country between the wealthy and the poor that is unacceptable,” he said. “I am not ordering anyone to do anything [but I’m] an advocate of paying your people fairly. I’m an advocate of a living wage and I’m an advocate of increasing minimum wage.”
Bill. Peduto stated that UPMC should be held accountable to three main groups: to its patients by allowing affordable healthcare access to UPMC services no matter what insurance plan they have; to the community by paying its fair share in taxes; and to workers by allowing them to form a union so they can support their families. “I support a living wage and I support any nonprofit that is a charity should not be stopping anyone from trying to form a union, which is the right of anyone in this country.”
Jake Wheatley said he also supports a living wage, but expressed reservations about the city’s tax challenge to UPMC’s charity status. “We would allow for the legal process to continue, but we think that’s going to be years in the making. . …We think we have some more pressing issues that we can negotiate and deal with, with UPMC and other large nonprofits, to help us as a city move forward that we shouldn’t do necessarily under the cloud of taking everyone to court.”
The strength and health of Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods depends on our largest employer, landowner and healthcare provider working with people in our city and being accountable to our needs. Let’s be sure to elect a mayor who intends to Make It Our UPMC!
Guest Blogger Michael Lamb
City Controller and Community Coordinating Committee member for Make it Our UPMC
With so many elections right around the corner, we’re hearing a lot about policy — and even more about politics!
This spring, we learned that one smart policy also happens to be smart politics: taking a strong position on UPMC’s obligation to our community and our City’s challenge to the healthcare institution’s charity status.
And you don’t have to take my word for it.
Recently, a poll conducted for the Tribune Review shows that Pittsburgh’s challenge of UPMC’s nonprofit status has the support of an overwhelming majority of likely voters. The survey of 400 likely Democratic voters was conducted on April 1 and 2 and found that 73% of those surveyed think the challenge makes sense.
Now, a new poll shows that UPMC’s tax avoidance is the #1 issue for many primary voters, especially for those voters who are undecided.
And what should really catch candidates’ eyes is that 75% of likely primary voters, including 64% of undecideds, are willing to cast their vote based on the strength of their position in making UPMC do its fair share.
As taxpayers are being asked to do more and more, and often receiving less and less, it’s perhaps no surprise that Pittsburgh residents are looking for the city’s largest employer, landowner and healthcare provider to partner with us in making our neighborhoods healthy and strong.
Pittsburgh is looking for more from our largest charity. And we are concerned that UPMC seems less than interested. In just a few short months, public support for UPMC has declined rapidly, even among the majority of people in our city who directly interact with UPMC. More than half of poll respondents now have an unfavorable view of UPMC, a 24% shift in just the past six months.
What do people really want from UPMC? Seventy percent think a great healthcare provider puts patients ahead of profit. But nearly 60% of people think UPMC does not. Many also believe that UPMC is not charging reasonable prices and that UPMC is not a “good corporate citizen.”
What else do we know from this new poll? Voters want UPMC to treat employees fairly. Fully 73% of respondents think UPMC employees would be better off with a union, and over 50% believe this strongly.
The public has spoken, and UPMC should take time to listen. Pittsburgh wants UPMC to be a better employer and a better neighbor.
Pittsburgh wants those elected this May to make this a priority.
Michael Lamb was elected Controller of the City of Pittsburgh in November of 2007. As Controller, Michael Lamb has put a focus on making Pittsburgh government more transparent. In addition to being City Controller, Lamb serves on the boards of the Kane Foundation, the Catholic Youth Association, the Downtown Pittsburgh YMCA and the 3 Rivers Wet Weather Demonstration Project. He is a member of the Mount Washington – Duquesne Heights Community Development Corporation, and sits on the Board of Fellows of the University of Pittsburgh’s Institute of Politics. Lamb was also the founding co-chair of A Plus Schools, the community alliance for Pittsburgh Public education.
On Saturday May 4th, dozens of volunteers from Make It Our UPMC went door-to-door in South Pittsburgh to help re-elect City Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak. Councilwoman Rudiak was one of the first elected leaders to use her office to help hold UPMC accountable. Last June, she held an important post-agenda hearing to allow experts, city officials and others to raise questions and share facts about UPMC’s behavior. She took the lead in a City Council proclamation supporting UPMC workers Frank Lavelle and Ron Oakes, who were fired by UPMC and brought back to work when UPMC chose to settle labor charges rather than face a lengthy trial. Natalia also helped lead a delegation of community and elected leaders who visited UPMC demanding that the health giant stop mistreating employees and violating their rights.
Natalia understands that UPMC needs to be a partner in fostering a strong and healthy Pittsburgh. This means treating patients regardless of what insurance card they carry, creating middle class jobs –not spending healthcare dollars on anti-union campaigns, and paying its fair share to help fund essential services like public transit.
Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak is a leader who will make sure UPMC acts like a real charity.
Together we can Make It Our UPMC!
Paul Wood, UPMC’s spokesman told the Post-Gazette, “…UPMC looks forward to demonstrating in a court of law that we meet all five prongs of the HUP test and that our hospitals easily qualify for the tax-exempt status they unquestionably deserve.”
But now it seems UPMC management isn’t so confident. Perhaps they took a look at the HUP test, the standard Pennsylvania law requires charities to meet, and had second thoughts. Donating a substantial portion of its services? With only 2% of UPMC’s revenues going to charity care that might be a bit of a stretch. Operating entirely free of the private profit motive? It might be kind of hard for UPMC executives to demonstrate that claim while cashing their multi-million dollar paychecks and flying around UPMC’s global empire in private jets.
So instead of showing tax-payers That UPMC’s a charity, the healthcare giant is , suing taxpayers for an undisclosed sum of money, claiming that their civil rights have been violated.
That’s pretty rich, coming from an employer whose violation of its employees rights resulted in an historic settlement that required UPMC to stop harassing, intimidating and discriminating against workers. Now the $10 billion dollar global health bully wants us to pay it back for the damage we’ve caused by telling the truth about UPMC’s operations.
As E.J. Strassburger, the Pittsburgh attorney representing the City in it’s challenge of UPMC’s charity status, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:
““It is unclear to me how asking a court to make a determination whether UPMC is or is not an institution of purely public charity is a violation of its constitutional rights… The painfully obvious bottom line is that the last thing UPMC wants is judicial scrutiny of its non-charitable agenda.”
Join us in holding UPMC accountable to our city – sign onto our code of conduct and demand that UPMC start acting like a true charity – and stop acting like a big bully.
Together We Can Make It Our UPMC
Support for our city’s challenge to UPMC’s status as a charity has been overwhelming. Many people would like to know more about what the challenge means and what we can expect:
Doesn’t the federal government get to decide what a charity is?
The IRS definitely sets out standards that institutions must meet to qualify as a charity at the federal level (a status that would make it exempt from federal income tax). However Pennsylvania gets to set separate standards for “institutions of purely public charity” that apply at the state and local level. . These state standards determine whether organizations like UPMC qualify for exemption from local property and payroll tax, state income tax, and other taxes that are levied inside the Commonwealth.
Where does Pennsylvania define “institutions of purely public charity?
In our state, the standard for being designated an institution of purely public charity is laid out in a 1985 Pennsylvania Supreme Court Case (Hospital Utilization Project v. Commonwealth, or “HUP” for short), in which the justices ruled that a non-profit must meet five criteria to qualify as an institution of purely public charity. This 5-factor test is known as the “HUP Test”.
Since 1985, Pennsylvania courts have decided dozens of cases that further define each factor of the HUP Test. In 1996, however, the state legislature passed a law (Act 55) that defined each HUP factor in ways that are easier to satisfy than the definitions articulated by the courts. As a result, Act 55 effectively lowered the standard for qualifying as an institution of purely public charity.
Some not-for-profits claim tax exemptions based on that easier standard. But last year, a new Supreme Court case (Mesivtah Eitz Chaim of Bobov v. Pike County Board of Assessment Appeals) reasserted that organizations must satisfy the courts’ interpretation of the HUP test—and not the Act 55 version—to be deemed a charity and qualify for state and local tax exemptions.
What are the five criteria laid out by the “HUP” test?
Every non-profit in the state must meet all five criteria in order to be considered a purely public charity.
1. It must advance a charitable purpose
2. It must donate or render gratuitously a substantial portion of its services
3. It must benefit a substantial and indefinite class of persons who are legitimate subjects of charity.
4. It must relieve the government of some of its burden; and
5. It must operate entirely free from a private profit motive.
Why doesn’t UPMC pass the “HUP” test?
In order to be considered a purely public charity, UPMC must pass all 5 of the requirements of the HUP test. However, certain aspects of UPMC’s operations suggest that, at a minimum, they fail to satisfy the second factor (which requires UPMC to provide a “substantial” share of its services “gratuitously,” i.e., free-of-charge), and the fifth factor (which requires UPMC to operate entirely free from profit motive). These facts include:
- UPMC devotes less than 2% of its net patient revenue to charity care, a level that is not substantially more than Pennsylvania’s for-profit health systems.
- UPMC has downsized or closed facilities in lower-income communities while expanding or opening entirely new facilities in more affluent communities.
- UPMC has recently stopped seeing patients who carry Highmark’s Community Blue insurance, even when patients are willing to pay cash. This has left many patients stranded and unable to continue the care they need with the doctors they know.
- UPMC’s CEO received nearly $6 million in compensation in 2011—an amount that dwarfs the compensation received by the CEOs of other charitable healthcare systems—and 22 other UPMC executives, each received compensation of more than $1 million that year.
So what does this all mean?
UPMC’s tax-breaks cost taxpayers an estimated $204 million dollars in federal, state and local taxes income and property taxes in 2011. In addition, UPMC receives subsidies in the form of tax-exempt bonds, exemption from tax on the sale of intellectual property and other financial breaks that are not accorded businesses without charity status. Our City is claiming that its largest private landowner, employer, and healthcare provider needs to act like a charitable institution—and satisfy the legal requirements for tax-exempt status, as set forth in the HUP Test—to be worthy of these benefits.
In an editorial on March 27th, the Post-Gazette officially endorsed our city’s decision to challenge the tax exempt status of UPMC, calling it “a fight worth having.”
Pennsylvania’s “HUP test” which sets the standard for charitable organizations has five distinct prongs, and organizations must pass all of them to be deemed a charity worthy of tax-exemptions. The Post-Gazette‘s argument for supporting the challenge to UPMC focuses in on the 5th of these prongs, which states that an “institution of purely public charity” must “operate entirely free of private profit motive.”
“UPMC closed Braddock hospital in a poverty-stricken area, saying it could not afford the red ink, at the same time it was building one in Monroeville, a prosperous community where another modern hospital already existed.
UPMC, which vigorously promotes its own health insurance plan, does not want to provide affordable access to Highmark insurance customers, who represent the majority of the Western Pennsylvania market.”
These examples raise serious questions about UPMC’s business practices, and whether or not UPMC is in fact an organization that operates free of private profit motive.