UPMC executives' efforts to spin the facts can't mask the reality of the health care giant's low wages and meager benefits for service workers ("UPMC Provides Superior Benefits to Employees," Sept. 4 letters).
UPMC senior vice president Greg Peaslee's attempt to obscure service workers' low wages by lumping their wage rates in with nonservice workers and adding in all sorts of nonwage items doesn't stand up to scrutiny. While Mr. Peaslee's compensation may in fact be "superior" -- he is one of 26 select UPMC employees paid more than $1 million last year -- the reality is that UPMC doesn't pay its service workers enough to cover their basic expenses. UPMC pays many service employees as little as $10 per hour, and the estimated median wage for support staff is $12.18 an hour, according to our analysis. Other experts say that's 8 percent to 30 percent less than what families need.
Our analysis also found that the costs imposed by the health system on employees who take UPMC's insurance can reduce the average service worker's income by an additional 7 percent to 19 percent. According to state records, UPMC has the third-highest number of full-time workers on Medicaid, after Walmart and McDonald's.
As United Steelworkers international president Leo Gerard stated forcefully in his Labor Day commentary ("Return of the 80-Hour Work Week," Sept. 2), what Pittsburgh families need is less lip service and more action. Raising the median wage for support staff from $12.18 an hour to $15 an hour would make only a small dent in UPMC profits while lifting thousands of families out of a daily struggle into a sustainable life. And UPMC executives' stopping of their campaign to keep UPMC workers from organizing for a voice at work would be a huge step toward building our city's middle class.