PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – For the second straight day, hundreds gathered outside the headquarters of UPMC in downtown Pittsburgh.
“Just want to get their attention and let them know they have to start treating their employees fairly and paying them properly,” UPMC employee Jill Brantner said.
Brantner is part of a group of about 30 from Altoona who came to support the efforts of their co-workers in Pittsburgh to unionize and fight for higher wages.
In a statement issued on Monday, UPMC’s Gloria Kreps says
“Comparing UPMC’s service worker starting wage of $11 per hour to the local market service worker starting wage of $9.48, UPMC pays $1.52 more per hour. Our average service worker wage at UPMC is $12.81 per hour or $26,644 annually.
In addition to wages, our service workers are offered superior health benefits for themselves and their family members, retirement benefits that include both a defined benefit pension plan and a savings plan with employer matching contributions, and generous paid time off from work. This compensation is valued at $21 per hour or over $42,000 annually. Additionally, UPMC provides tuition reimbursement for employees who wish to further their education as well as tuition reimbursement for their spouses, partners and children.”
Yet, protestors persisted with Pittsburgh Police keeping a watchful eye at the front door.
A little after 9 a.m., Mayor Bill Peduto’s chief of staff addressed the crowd by reading a statement from his boss who is in Washington.
“I’m asking everybody — UPMC workers, our union brothers and sisters, health care subscribers and community leaders — to collaborate to resolve these conflicts and to heal the divisions in our community,” the statement said.
The mayor says he sees it as an opportunity to open a dialogue with UPMC.
“It’s not only the issue of UPMC employees, it’s also the payments back to the community and how we can stop the fight between UPMC and Highmark,” Peduto told KDKA. “All those things need to mediated.”
Mayor Peduto says he believes there’s three factors that need to be covered.
1) No UPMC employee should live in poverty or have to rely on public assistance.
2) All residents should have access to UPMC hospitals and that this comes along with being a purely public charity.
And 3) That UPMC contribute its fair share — or the city of Pittsburgh will struggle.
Mayor Peduto says he plans to meet with UPMC CEO and President Jeffrey Romoff Wednesday to discuss how the city and what Peduto calls a “major component of the economic engine” of Pittsburgh will move forward.
Peduto said, “It’s benefited the region, but at the same time there have been those who have been left behind in that growth. These aren’t unsolvable problems. These are just a bunch of numbers.”
“Everybody wants a successful UPMC. They are an integral part of the economy here, not just in Pittsburgh, but all of western Pennsylvania. And, at the same time, we want to ensure workers’ rights,” City Council President Bruce Kraus said.
As protestors filed out of the plaza, they hoped they are one step closer to what they want.
“In the immediate future? Absolutely nothing. Probably. It’s going to take some time. Like I said, this is just one step in the process,” Vendell Nasir said.