PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Several local politicians were joined by hundreds of demonstrators Saturday to rally against healthcare provider UPMC.
Demonstrators met at the corner of Forbes Avenue and Bigelow Boulevard in Oakland.
Organizers called it a “march to call on UPMC to stop being a bully and start acting like a real charity.”
They say as the region’s largest employer – of more than 55,000 people – UPMC should pay employees more fairly, give back to the community and make other changes.
Rep. Erin Molchany, City Controller Michael Lamb, County Controller Chelsa Wagner and city council members Dan Gilman and Natalia Rudiak were all in attendance.
Religious leaders, community activists and workers also participated in the rally, some carrying signs during the demonstration.
Some accuse UPMC of bullying workers trying to form a union.
“The way they’ve been treated, no worker should be treated,” said Allegheny County Labor Council President Jack Shea.
The median pay for service workers is around $12 an hour. Some say it’s hard to make ends meet, especially with a family.
“Luckily, I have eBay business on the side to help me or else I would be in a bad boat right now, and I’ve been there 10 years,” said Chaney Lewis, a UPMC employee.
Many in attendance agree that UPMC does a lot of good and is important to the community, but they also support the workers.
“There’s no doubt that UPMC’s an important institution,” State Sen. Jim Ferlo said. “They’re a great provider of employment, economic development, economic activity in our city and our region. But they have to pay a fair wage. They have to respect the rights of working people within their institution to freely organize if they so choose to have a union.”
“This corporate greed has to stop,” added Pastor W.J. Rideout. “They have… they’re making $1.3 billion yearly and they can afford to pay their workers more money than what they’re paying them.”
Sen. Ferlo has a suggestion for the largest employer in the Pittsburgh area.
“Instead of spending and wasting all that money on attack ads back and forth between Highmark and UPMC ad nauseam, they should redirect those resources and pay their workers a decent wage with benefits,” said Pa. Sen. Jim Ferlo.
Eventually, everyone marched down Fifth Avenue and sat in the street in front of UPMC Presbyterian. Some are questioning UPMC’s non-profit status.
“They’re kind of looking to fill their pockets, and that to me is the opposite of a charity,” said protester Debbie Srogi.
“The term non-profit has become very loose and basically is not the reality of major non-profit institutions that generate tremendous amount of revenues under the guise of being quote, non-profit,” added Sen. Ferlo.
Christoria Hughes wants her employer to know it can no longer conduct business as usual.
“UPMC will continue to use tactics of scaring workers, harassing people and holding the City of Pittsburgh hostage. With this demonstration today were letting them know, you cannot do that any longer,” said Hughes.
UPMC spokeswoman Gloria Kreps said in a statement: “We believe that the purpose and intent of the rally is to divert the public from the truth and cast UPMC hospitals — and the great people who work here every day — in the worst possible light. Rallies of this kind demean the excellent care we provide to our patients — care that we believe our patients deserve and have come to expect.”