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.”


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