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Pittsburgh United Releases Report On UPMC Wages

Representatives of several organizations are set to gather outside of UPMC headquarters today to lobby in support of wage increases—and they might have some economic ammunition.

According to a report by the activist organization Pittsburgh United, raising wages to $15 an hour for UPMC service workers could benefit the region’s economy.

The report states that raising the wage could bring between $38.3 million and $53.4 million in new economic activity; $500,000 for the city of Pittsburgh; $1 million in revenue for Pittsburgh Public Schools; and could create 347 to 485 new jobs.

Emily Alvarado, director of policy and outreach for Pittsburgh United, said $15 an hour is a “basic” wage.

“In Pittsburgh, a family of two adults and two children would need both adults working full time at a minimum of at least $15.94 just to be self-sufficient on their basic family necessities,” she said. “So, $15 is really not an unreasonable demand.”

A base hourly wage of $15 an hour could lead to layoffs or an increase in healthcare costs. But Alvarado said UPMC should be able to absorb the higher costs because of the $1.3 billion surplus the healthcare giant has developed over the last three years.

“They peg their wages to the middle of the workers in the region,” she said. “So, if they raise their wages, we’re more likely to see other employers throughout the region raising their wages as well.”

In compiling the report, Alvarado said researchers assumed UPMC service workers were paid about $13.18 an hour, but according to UPMC, workers make $12.81 an hour. UPMC also stated that their starting wage is $11.00 an hour compared to the local market starting wage of $9.48 an hour, and the institution offers health and retirement benefits that are valued at $21 an hour.

Researchers also cite that UPMC President and CEO Jeffery Romoff received more than $6 million in 2012—compared to $2.56 million for The Cleveland Clinic’s top executive and $1.01 million for the CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Despite a recent surge of protests and arrests outside of UPMC headquarters, Pittsburgh United Executive Director Barney Oursler said he’s optimistic about UPMC’s future.

“We think that the pressure’s only going to be building on them to be a responsible employer in this region,” he said. “And at some point, their board of directors, we believe, is going to say: ‘We have a responsibility here Mr. Romoff.’”

The Erie, PA native has been a fellow in the WESA news department since May 2013. Having earned a bachelor's degree in print journalism from Duquesne University, he is now pursuing an M.A. in multi-media management. Michael describes his career aspiration as "I want to do it all in journalism."