U.S. Congressman Mike Doyle joined UPMC workers and community activists for a rally outside the federal building in downtown Pittsburgh Monday.
Doyle told the assembled crowd of about 75 people that he recently had the honor of accompanying President Barack Obama on his trip to Pittsburgh last week, and that the two discussed the president’s comments during his State of the Union address.
“One of the things he said that really stuck with me is … 'No one in this country should be working full time and living in poverty,’” said Doyle.
Doyle said that is the reality for many people who work at UPMC, and that it is unacceptable in a city with a strong history of labor unions and collective bargaining.
“I heard some stories just a couple minutes ago when I met with some workers from UPMC that would shock you,” Doyle said. “I heard one gentleman has been there 17 years … and he’s making $12.38 an hour.”
Leslie Poston said she is unable to make ends meet on the wages she earns at UPMC, and that she has to visit food banks in order to put food on the table. She held up a full page ad that UPMC took out in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last week, which said “UPMC is one of the largest community supporters of Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.”
“Myself and a lot of the other co-workers visit these food banks … because we don’t have enough money to make ends meet,” Poston said. “To me, that hit a nerve, that’s a slap in my face, that I have to visit a food bank after I give full time hours to UPMC.”
Poston said her take-home pay is around $350/week, and that she would much rather have a raise so that she did not have to visit the food bank.
Workers collected bags of groceries to deliver to UPMC’s headquarters downtown, as a symbolic and tongue-in-cheek gesture. As the crowd rallied in front of the UPMC building, organizers announced that the healthcare giant would not accept the donation.
“UPMC makes a lot of money, and … I don’t have any problem with that,” Doyle said. “This is America, and you work hard, and you do things right, and you make a lot of money. That’s the American dream. But also, you share that American dream with the people who made you successful.”
UPMC said in a statement that the "rally was both misleading and inaccurate. At UPMC the average base wage, excluding executive salaries, is nearly $30 per hour or more than $61,000 annually plus another $15,000 in benefits. Ninety-six percent of our employees make $11 per hour or more."
In October, the National Labor Relations Board accused UPMC of 48 labor violations. The trial was slated to begin on Monday but was postponed for one week. Kim Siegert, deputy regional director for the NLRB, said the trial was delayed due to subpoena matters, and that the agency needed more time to collect documents relevant to the case.