UPMC workers stage one-day walkout

A group of UPMC hospital workers in Pittsburgh walked off the job Nov. 18 over demands for fair pay, safer staffing, better working conditions, and unionization rights, according to a news release from organizers.

Among the employees participating in the walkout are workers at UPMC Presbyterian and Shadyside hospitals, including patient care techs, surgical techs and dietary workers.

Organizers say workers want a $20 per hour minimum wage, safer staffing and the right to form their union. They are also advocating for better insurance.

"We're so understaffed management is constantly mandating us to work overtime. I'm working six days a week at this point. I'm at work more than I'm home," Tinisha Brockman, patient care tech at UPMC Presbyterian, said in a news release.  

She added, "I'm still struggling to pay for everything — especially my medications. I have bad asthma, but last month I couldn't afford to get my Flovent inhaler. Enough is enough. We need a union. "

The walkout comes after UPMC announced Nov. 2 that the health system is giving 92,000 staff members a bonus of $500 to thank them for their work during the pandemic. UPMC will issue the bonuses on Nov. 26. 

In announcing the bonus, UPMC President and CEO Leslie Davis told workers, "Over the past 20 months, you have risen in truly exceptional ways to meet challenges we could have never anticipated. With your critical support, UPMC continues to care for so many."

UPMC also has proposed raising entry-level pay to $15.75 per hour in January, in addition to distributing the bonus, according to The Tribune-Democrat.

But workers, through Service Employees International Union Healthcare Pennsylvania, which does not represent the workers but is supporting them, are demanding a $20 per hour minimum wage.

Organizers say hundreds of workers have signed a petition advocating for the pay boost, as well as affordable high-quality healthcare, elimination of all medical debt, and respect for union rights.

UPMC, a fully integrated $23 billion global health system, declined to comment about the walkout. The health system estimated that 43 UPMC employees participated, out of  more than 43,000 employees the organization has in Allegheny County.   

SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, for nearly a decade, has been trying to organize about 3,500 workers at UPMC Presbyterian and Shadyside hospitals, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

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