Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Victory for Aliquippa Caregivers - And More to Come

Victory for Aliquippa Caregivers – And More to Come

(PITTSBURGH) -- In a victory for laid-off employees of Commonwealth Medical Center (formerly Aliquippa Hospital) who have been fighting for unpaid wages, the Medical Center and its chief lender, Bridge Finance Group, agreed to pay part of the wages owed immediately and to work toward full payment within three weeks.

The agreement reached on Tuesday provides that the former employees will receive a portion of the wages owed by 12:00 Noon on Wednesday, January 28, with a commitment to ensuring full compensation in the next few weeks.

“This is a tremendous first step, and we are going to keep fighting to make sure everyone is paid in full for our work on behalf of patients and our community,” said Kathie Marino, RN and former Commonwealth employee.  “In this economic crisis, working people need to stick together so our voices are heard.”

U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Bernard Markovitz signed the order releasing partial payment of employees’ unpaid wages at Tuesday’s hearing, and has scheduled a follow up hearing for Tuesday, February 17, at 11:00 A.M. to approve an agreement for full payment of wages owed. 

Leading up to Tuesday’s hearing, Commonwealth Medical Center employees and community supporters held a week of rallies and public activities to draw attention to the need for fair treatment of working families during layoffs.

  • On Monday before the hearing, a group of four nurses formerly employed by the hospital, two area clergy, and a union leader sat in at the closed hospital demanding fairness for working families, not just those at the top. 
  • On Friday, January 23, a group of former hospital employees traveled to Chicago for a rally at the Bridge Finance Group's headquarters at the Sears Tower joined by SEIU Healthcare Illinois members and former employees of Republic Windows and Doors. 
  • On Tuesday, January 27, in downtown Pittsburgh, over 100 supporters rallied with former hospital workers prior to the start of the Bankruptcy Court hearing.

“We are grateful for the support of our union and community and are very encouraged by today’s developments,” said Linda Karamarkovich, RN.  “We intend to continue to stick together, and look forward to receiving part of what we are owed tomorrow and all of our unpaid wages very soon.”

Commonwealth Medical Center filed for bankruptcy last December 5th and closed abruptly about one week later.  In December, the Medical Center and Bridge Finance Group agreed to pay wages for hospital executives but left frontline caregivers out in the cold, waiting for paychecks that were owed them before Christmas and New Years. 

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