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Doyle, workers, union call for UPMC wage hike

PAY A FAIR WAGE—Mike Doyle joins UPMC employees and union supporters in calling for UPMC to raise wages for lower level. full-time employees, some of whom say they can’t afford groceries. (Photo by Liz Reid, 90.5 WESA)

Piggybacking on President Obama’s executive order raising the minimum wage employees of companies contracting with the federal government, foes of UPMC rallied outside the federal building calling for the healthcare conglomerate to raise wages for its low level employees.

Though they make more than the–now $10 per hour–federal minimum, some at the rally said they still require public aid such as food stamps to get by.

The protesters set up a food bank outside the Federal Building on Liberty Avenue, on Feb. 3, for UPMC workers who say they are unable to afford groceries. One of the, Leslie Poston, held up a full page ad UPMC placed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette a week earlier saying it “is one of the largest community supporters of the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.”

“Myself and a lot of co-workers visit those food banks because we don’t have enough money to make ends meet,” she said. “To me that (ad) is a slap in the face.”

Poston, who works full-time, said she takes home about $350 a week.

The protesters were joined by U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pittsburgh, who said UPMC needs to share the American Dream.
“UPMC makes a lot of money, I don’t have a problem with that,” he said. “You work hard, you do the right things, and you make a lot of money. It’s the American Dream–but also, you share that dream with the people who made you successful.”

In a released statement, UPMC called the rally misleading, saying 96 percent of its employees make more than $11 per hour.

“At UPMC, the average base wage, excluding executive salaries, is $30 per hour or more than $61,000 annually plus another $15,000 in benefits.

The workers who attended the rally were not impressed, and in response, marched to the UPMC offices on Grant Street to deliver groceries from the food bank. They weren’t accepted.

A similar rally outside UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in September charged the healthcare giant with targeting union organizers. In October, the National Labor Relations Board charge UPMC with 48 violations. That trial was to have begun the same day as the rally, but has been delayed. UPMC also faces a lawsuit from the City of Pittsburgh challenging its nonprofit, tax-exempt status.
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