- Photo by Ryan Deto
- Barney Oursler, of Pittsburgh United, leads a rally for fair pay and unionization for hospital workers last year.
“We are very proud of our wages, generous benefits and other rewards and of the tens of thousands of jobs at UPMC that have meaning and purpose, and that fulfill an incredibly important mission for the region and the communities that we serve,” said John Galley, UPMC's senior vice president and chief human resources officer, said in a press release. “We review the market each year to ensure that our salary ranges are competitive and we are committed to rewarding our strong-performing employees with merit increases on an annual basis.”
The announcement comes after a years-long struggle by a contingent of UPMC's employees and labor activists to unionize employees at UPMC hospitals as part of a city-wide movement to raise wages and improve benefits for Pittsburgh workers.
"We are honored to have our region's largest employer join us in our drive for $15 an hour," Mayor Bill Peduto said in a statement. "We still have a lot of work ahead of us to ensure that our new economy is an economy for all Pittsburghers, but today is a big step forward. I commend UPMC for taking this step on behalf of low income employees, many of whom are Pittsburgh residents, and for showing how good wages mean good business for employers."
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald also released a statement Tuesday morning: “This is an exciting announcement for our region and I commend UPMC for making a decision to improve the wages for so many in our community. I also applaud Mayor Peduto for taking the lead on this important cause and ensuring that we continue to narrow the wage gap in our community. The county had also made that commitment to ensure that our full-time county employees receive the wages that they deserve for the betterment of their families.”
According to the press release announcing pending changes at UPMC hospitals, increases to entry-level positions will occur at UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside hospital, UPMC Mercy, Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC and other facilities. UPMC predicts average service worker pay at these facilities will "exceed $15/hour by January 2019." The pay range changes are set to begin Jan. 1, 2017.
UPMC says their decision to increase wages is based on their "continual evaluation of the market, solidifies its reputation as a highly desirable employer with industry-leading total compensation packages, a focus on work-life balance, and significant opportunities for career advancement."
The release also details the salary and benefits package for UPMC employees which includes "a retirement savings plan with a percentage match by UPMC, a defined benefit pension plan paid entirely by UPMC, tuition assistance for employees and their families, comprehensive health insurance and generous paid time off." The release asserts that employees "making $15/hour and taking full advantage of UPMC’s robust benefits package will earn the equivalent of $24.25/hour."
“I am an example of how a UPMC employee can take advantage of the rich benefits offered to us and achieve a lifelong career within UPMC," Dawndra Jones, UPMC McKeesport chief nursing officer and vice president of patient care services said in a statement. According to the release, Jones began working at UPMC 25 years ago and utilized her employer's tuition reimbursement program to earn multiple degrees in nursing.
Leslie Poston, a leader with Make it Our UPMC the group who was working to unionize employees through SEIU, also released a statement this morning:
“UPMC executives said they would never pay workers $15 an hour, but hospital workers came together to stand up for our rights and for better pay, and we won the raises our families and communities need and deserve,” said Leslie Poston who works at UPMC Presbyterian and is paid $13/hour. “Our union has lifted up worker voices, built support throughout the community and together, we have made UPMC change. We will continue standing together until UPMC ends its anti-union campaign, provides affordable access to care to all patients and treats all Pittsburgh residents with the respect we deserve."
The local fight for workers rights is just getting started activists say. A statement from community activism organization Pittsburgh United, in response to UPMC's announcement, highlighted an upcoming April 14 "day of action to call for an equitable, livable city for all." Pittsburgh United says they will "continue to demand that all workers-including those at UPMC-earn $15 an hour AND have the right to form a union."
"This is what happens when workers and the community stand together and hold our anchor institutions accountable to the needs of our community," Barney Oursler, executive director of Pittsburgh United, said in a statement. "Now it's time for UPMC to get out of the way of workers' right to form a union. With fair labor agreements, workers will have access to basic job protections and a voice in the workplace, ultimately resulting in improved patient care."
The Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network also weighed in.
"Two years ago, a UPMC executive responded to our calls for $15 and a union by saying that $15 an hour 'wasn't reasonable.' We are gratified to see that UPMC has finally recognized the value of all their workers and has committed to raising wages to $15 an hour," PIIN President Rodney Lyde said in a statement. "Now we call on UPMC to recognize the other half of our demand and allow workers to form a union without interference or intimidation."