On Tuesday, some of UPMC's service workers will strike during the nonprofit health service's annual public board meeting for its Shadyside and Presbyterian hospitals. Workers plan to go on strike as early as 7 a.m. Tuesday until 7 a.m. Wednesday.
UPMC is the largest private employer in the state of Pennsylvania, operating both a health care network and insurance company. It said that its average service worker has made more than $15.09 an hour since February of last year.
But workers argue this pay is too low, and that their benefits aren’t enough to cover health care costs. Therefore, they’re asking UPMC to increase compensation and forgive medical debt.
One of those people with debt is Alexandria Cutler, a food service worker at both UPMC Presbyterian and Western Psychiatric hospitals. Cutler said she injured her back while on the job.
“We were really short [on employees] that day at work, so they asked me to do multiple jobs,” she said. “After a while, you know my body, started aching. But I kept pushing myself, I was worried about how they would feel if I told them I can’t keep going."
Cutler said she ended up in the emergency room, had to take time off work, and now has medical bills.
“Since they say they are a charity, we expect to, you know, be a little more lenient with somethings, such as the debt,” said Cutler.
A UPMC spokesperson said it was the first health care organization in the Pittsburgh region to commit to raising the average worker pay to $15 an hour, which shows that it invests in its workforce.
UPMC's annual public meeting will take place at 1 p.m. in the 7th floor auditorium at Montefiore Hospital in Oakland.
WESA receives funding from UPMC.
Correction: This article was updated to reflect details regarding the timing of the strike and to clarify that it coincided with the annual public board meeting for UPMC's Shadyside and Presbyterian hospitals.