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.”

Community Holds Food Bank for UPMC Workers in Need

Leslie Poston - Unit Secretary UPMC Presby

Leslie Poston – Unit Secretary UPMC Presby

Responding to the need of UPMC workers to rely on food banks, nearly 200 UPMC workers, faith and labor leaders, and community allies joined Congressman Mike Doyle on February 3 to donate food to workers at the city’s largest employer.
Even with $1.3 billion in profits in the last three years, $4 billion in reserves and 22 top executives paid $47.5 million a year, UPMC pays many of its employees so little that they face constant financial insecurity. Even working full-time, many are forced to rely on taxpayer programs—like food stamps, housing subsidies and even Medicaid—just to get by.
UPMC workers like Leslie Poston keep the heart and lung transplant unit running smoothly. She has been at UPMC for ten years but even working full time hours, she only brings home about $300 dollars a week. Because of UPMC’s poverty wages, she must use food banks to keep food on her table.
Community donates food to the workers of UPMC.

Community donates food to the workers of UPMC.

“Last week I saw UPMC’s giant ad in the paper saying UPMC gives to the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank so that people in Pittsburgh can eat,” said Leslie Poston “This is a great thing. Generosity towards people in need is really beautiful. But the ad also struck a nerve, because I AM one of the people who uses a food bank. So are many of my coworkers.”
The reality is UPMC doesn’t pay its service sector workers, their largest number of workers, enough to sustain themselves or their families. Many experts agree and say that UPMC pays up to 30% less than what someone like Leslie would need to earn to support her family.
Congressman Mike Doyle calls on UPMC to create good jobs and grow the middle class.

Congressman Mike Doyle calls on UPMC to create good jobs and grow the middle class.

Congressman Doyle knows that the road to ending income inequality in Pittsburgh goes through UPMC and called on the global healthcare giant to use its wealth and power to help the people who made it the success it is today live the American dream.
“The road to ending income inequality in Pittsburgh begins at UPMC. Our state’s largest private employer has the power and ability to lift thousands of workers out of poverty and into the middle class,” Said Congressman Doyle “By working together with your employees you can grow the middle class and strengthen the economy for all of Pittsburgh.”
UPMC needs to do more for the community it serves, and Reverend Eric McIntosh, from St. James Episcopal Church, called on UPMC to remember its charitable mission and to put people ahead of profits.
“UPMC is morally bankrupt. UPMC has lost sight of its charitable mission, and its business practices are putting undue financial pressures on families relying on a paycheck from them and for Pittsburgh families picking up the slack where UPMC leaves off,” said Rev Eric. McIntosh of St. James Episcopal Church “UPMC is defining jobs and the economy in Pittsburgh, but not in a way that helps our families. We need UPMC to put people ahead of profits.”
Good Jobs. Healthy Pittsburgh.
In The News:
Rep. Mike Doyle Joins Workers Rallying Against UPMC – WESA FM