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Fear And Intimidation: UPMC Workers Rally To Highlight National Labor Board Ruling

Sarah Boden
90.5 WESA
Darrin Kelly, president of the Allegheny/Fayette AFL-CIO, speaks at Tuesday's rally outside UPMC headquarters.

Labor organizers demonstrated outside UPMC headquarters in downtown Pittsburgh on Tuesday to highlight two Augustrulingsby the National Labor Relations Board that found the state’s largest hospital system violated workers’ rights.

The labor board said UPMC illegally interfered with employee unionizing efforts by threatening workers with poor performance reviews, prohibiting people from distributing union materials and trying to ban organizing conversations during non-work time.

Credit Sarah Boden / 90.5 WESA News
90.5 WESA News
James Threatt holds a sign outlining how he wants UPMC to treat service workers.

Patient care technician James Threatt assists patients with feeding and bathing. He said he’s tried to advance organizing efforts by distributing information to employees at various UPMC hospital cafeterias.

“[There's] a lot of fear and intimidation brought on by UPMC, every single day, because workers want a better way of life for them and their families,” said Threatt.

James DeShields, a food service worker at UPMC Presbyterian, said the lack of a union hurts his ability to earn better pay and contributes to a toxic work environment.

“It doesn’t have to be an adversarial conflict every day with your employer,” said DeShields.  “It’s not like UPMC and Presbey don’t have union people working there, and we’re treated much different than they are.”

In an emailed statement, a UPMC spokesperson did not dispute charges that it surveilled and intimated workers, but pointed to one instance where the labor board upheld disciplinary action against an employee.

Decisions by the national labor board can be appealed to U.S. District Court.

90.5 WESA receives funding from UPMC.

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.