UPMC’s hidden “healthcare heroes” will walk off the job, joining workers all over the country demanding employers pay living wages and respect their union rights

Pittsburgh, PA – November 5, 2021 – At a press conference this morning surrounded by elected officials, faith leaders, academics, and community supporters, UPMC workers announced their intent to strike for fair pay, safer staffing, better working conditions, and the right to form their union without retaliation or interference. They are joining workers from around the country and across industries who are standing up to demand fair pay and treatment.

On Wednesday, in response to hundreds of workers signing onto a petition demanding $20/hour minimum wage, affordable high quality health care, elimination of all medical debt, and respect for union rights, UPMC alerted workers that they will be handing out $500 “thank you pay” and offering a “raise” of $.75 cents an hour in January, along with creating HSAs for workers.

Said Juilia Centofanti, Pharmacy Tech at UPMC Childrens, “There was no ‘thank you pay’ until we started organizing to strike. We worked for two years in the pandemic without a drop of extra pay. Paying us a living wage of $20/hour would mean $400 more in every single paycheck. You better believe I will cash this $500 check because we have already worked to make UPMC a billion in profit. Enough with the unfair labor practices and enough with the food banks. We’re owed this and so much more and I will continue organizing with my coworkers for the pay, safer staffing, and union rights we deserve. ”

Said Dr. Jeffrey Shook, Associate Professor of Social Work and Sociology at the University of Pittsburgh, “Our research shows people need $20/hour to reduce the material and financial hardships experienced by many workers — which include poor health, undue stress, lack of mobility and diminished chances for their children. Wages are the biggest social determinant of health, and if UPMC is earnest in its desire to address those, it should start with its own employees.”

“We cannot have a healthy region if our biggest employer is paying poverty wages. Wages are the biggest social determinant of health, and right now, Pennsylvanians are tired of propping up an institution that keeps their massive workforce in poverty,” said PA State Senator Lindsey Williams. “I’m proud of these workers — they’re standing up to demand fair pay and treatment. UPMC had their best year on record during the pandemic, yet the workers who kept UPMC hospitals running in the middle of a global public health crisis didn’t even receive hazard pay. Enough is enough.”

Said Zarah Livingston, Patient Care Technician at UPMC Mercy, “We’ve spent day and night seeing the community through this pandemic, only to see signs on our way to work advertising jobs at Amazon or the coffee shop offering better wages than we’re putting our lives on the line everyday to take care of our community members when they’re sick. On November 18, we are standing up and fighting back.”