UPMC workers to hold protest in Oakland

By Gideon Bradshaw / News Editor

UPMC workers plan to hold a demonstration in Oakland this weekend to protest UPMC’s employment and insurance practices.

Pittsburgh City Council unanimously passed a proclamation Wednesday in support of the rally, which is planned to start at 11 a.m. Saturday. According to the proclamation, which City Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak and Council President Darlene Harris jointly sponsored, UPMC employees plan to protest the alleged firing and harassment of workers at UPMC hospitals. 

Labor union, SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, is organizing the demonstration. The demonstrators plan to gather near the corner of Forbes and Bigelow avenues. 

In addition to alleging that UPMC has harassed and intimidated workers who have tried to unionize, the proclamation accuses UPMC of “threatening to cut off access to patients who have the ‘wrong’ insurance.”

“People who have been working for UPMC for years are stuck with low wages, and we, as taxpayers, are subsidizing it,” Adam Shuck, a spokesman for Rudiak’s office, said.

Representatives for UPMC did not respond to requests for comment.

The proclamation also claims that UPMC has kept subscribers to Highmark’s Community Blue health care plan from visiting UPMC facilities.

Tension between UPMC and the city is nothing new.

The city and the office of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl challenged UPMC’s status as a nonprofit organization last March by filing a civil complaint in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas. The city’s complaint claimed that UPMC engaged in business practices inconsistent with its legal nonprofit status.

UPMC responded by filing a countersuit against the city and Ravenstahl, and the suit was moved to federal court. In June, UPMC added Fair Share Pittsburgh, a group affiliated with SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, to the suit.

In a March statement, UPMC claimed that some Community Blue subscribers were unable to use UPMC facilities because of limitations built into the plan by Highmark.

UPMC and Highmark are also currently involved in litigation over contracts. Both organizations have engaged in advertising campaigns critical of the other.

Representatives for both Highmark and SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania did not respond to requests for comment.