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UPMC hospital workers in Pittsburgh walk off the job, protesting wages and health care costs

Workers walked out of UPMC facilities on Nov. 18, 2021, protesting wages and high health care costs.
Sarah Boden
90.5 WESA
Workers walked out of UPMC facilities on Nov. 18, 2021, protesting wages and high health care costs.

Editor's note: Read our follow-up story on the walkout here.

A group of UPMC hospital employees in Pittsburgh are participating in a one-day walkout Thursday. Among the striking workers are clinical staff, such as surgery techs and certified nursing assistants, along with non-clinical employees, including food service and transportation workers.

Organizers say “hundreds” of workers from every UPMC hospital in the city are participating. Workers want the state’s largest non-governmental employer to allow them to form a union “without interference.” They’re also advocating for UPMC to increase its minimum wage to $20 an hour and provide employees with more affordable health insurance while eliminating their medical debt as well.

"We're overworked, underpaid and stressed out. UPMC doesn’t care,” said Tosh Lindsay, who works in environmental services at UPMC and was participating in the walkout.

Some UPMC employees say they don’t make enough money to pay their medical bills, despite working for their medical provider, which as an integrated health care system is also their insurance carrier.

At 3 p.m. on Thursday, participants will gather at UPMC’s downtown headquarters. A number of community leaders are scheduled to be there including Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and state Rep. Summer Lee, who are running for the U.S. Senate and Congress respectively.

Medical workers are required to give their employer at least a 10-day notice,which organizers did on Nov. 5. Therefore this walkout is a federally protected labor activity; employees legally cannot be fired or punished for participating. Workers also don’t need to give their managers individual notice.

UPMC had no comment about the planned walkout.

Sarah Boden covers health and science for 90.5 WESA. Before coming to Pittsburgh in November 2017, she was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio. As a contributor to the NPR-Kaiser Health News Member Station Reporting Project on Health Care in the States, Sarah's print and audio reporting frequently appears on NPR and KFF Health News.