Tuesday, January 27, 2009

PA Hospital Workers Sit-in to Get Back Pay

Caregivers Sit-in at Community Hospital in Aliquippa, Demand Fairness for Working Families

(ALIQUIPPA, PA) -- Hospital caregivers from the former Aliquippa Hospital initiated a peaceful sit-in inside the closed medical facility to protest hospital management’s failure to pay employees’ unpaid wages that were due to them before Christmas. 

Four Registered Nurses, former hospital employees, joined by SEIU Healthcare PA Secretary-Treasurer Kim Patterson, Father Jack O’Malley of Pittsburgh and Scott Fabean of the Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network went into the building around noon to discuss the issue with hospital management. The delegation met with hospital officials for about an hour and a half. When discussions broke down, the delegation vowed to stay on the property until management agreed to pay them for the hours they worked.

Willie Felts (CFO) and John O’Donnell (CEO) from Commonwealth then called the Aliquippa police who removed the caregivers and their supporters from the hospital grounds. 

The workers will continue to press their demands at a demonstration before the bankruptcy hearing scheduled for tomorrow at the US Steel Building in Pittsburgh.

“It’s unfortunate when workers have to stage sit-ins to get what they earned,” said Kathie Marino, RN. “But workers across the nation are saying ‘enough is enough’ of executives looking out for themselves and not working families.”

Commonwealth Medical Center (formerly Aliquippa Hospital) filed for bankruptcy protection on December 5, 2008. The State Department of Health moved to revoke the hospital's license about a week later, resulting in the layoff of all but a few of the hospital's approximately 200 employees.

A deal made between the hospital and their primary lender, Bridge Finance Group, provided for executive salaries, but left frontline workers out in the cold. Workers are still waiting for wages they have been owed since before Christmas and New Years.

“When Commonwealth took over Aliquippa Hospital they promised us that they cared about our community,” said Linda Karamarkovich, who worked as a registered nurse before the closing.  “If they really cared about the community they wouldn’t have closed the hospital just weeks before Christmas, leaving hundreds of families without a paycheck and thousands of families without a local hospital.”

“All we want is justice and our back pay,” added Michelle Batchelor, RN.  “We earned it and they owe it.”

Some of the former Aliquippa workers took their case to Chicago last week where they were joined by hundreds of supporters at a rally in front of Bridge’s headquarters in the Sears Tower.

Among the supporters who joined them were former employees of Republic Windows and Doors who were also denied their back pay when their employer closed their plant. The Republic workers staged a five day long sit-in that resulted in the workers winning.

SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, the union representing the workers and the largest healthcare workers’ union in the state, has filed a complaint that will be heard at a bankruptcy court hearing on Tuesday.


SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania is the Commonwealth’s largest and fastest-growing union of nurses and other health care workers, representing over 20,000 members in hospitals, nursing homes, home care, and state health facilities.  For more information go to: www.seiuhealthcarepa.org.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The health care workers should be taken care of very well in the interest of public health
medical training