A low wage bar

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As indicated by an April 3 New York Times article — “A Union’s Wage War” — the efforts of 10,000 UPMC service workers to unionize is fast becoming a national issue. As well it should.

Details of the story are familiar to Pittsburghers: $20 million in annual tax breaks based on UPMC’s claim that it is a nonprofit; UPMC’s $10 billion in 2013 revenues and for-profit facilities in Italy, Ireland and Kazakhstan; the chief executive’s 2013 compensation of $6 million; UPMC’s lease of a $50 million corporate jet. However, it was an assertion by unnamed UPMC officials that clearly shows this is yet another attempt to continue the war on all American workers and decrease their standard of living.

According to these UPMC officials, cafeteria workers and janitors are paid $12.81 an hour, which they say is above market for Pittsburgh and well above the $10.10 minimum wage President Barack Obama is seeking. However, what makes this an incomplete narrative is the omission of the fact that for decades corporate America has successfully sought to reduce workers’ average hourly wage and has continually fought efforts to raise the minimum wage, even questioning the need for its existence. In other words, comparing what UPMC service workers make to the local Pittsburgh market and the proposed new minimum standard is a very low bar and gives the illusion of progress.

Rather than comparing the wages of UPMC workers to figures that are kept low through the efforts of America’s 1 percent, UPMC would serve itself, its workers and the larger community much better if it would do what is fair and equitable in regard to its service workers.

Squirrel Hill

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