Workers at the Pocono Medical Center (PMC), members of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, are in the fight of their life to protect their union, their families and good jobs in the Poconos.
In October, a strong majority of PMC workers voted in a Federal government-supervised election to keep their union shop. One would think that the hospital would respect the workers' democratic vote and move forward toward ratification of the next contract. But instead, PMC has continued to intimidate workers and refused to settle a new contract if the workers don't deliberately weaken their own union.
The workers refuse to be muted by the company. With thousands of their sisters and brothers around the country, they will hold a mass march and rally on Saturday, May 14th to call on the hospital to end its Wisconsin-style attacks.
The march will start at East Stroudsburg University, with the kick-off rally beginning at 12 noon. SEIU President Mary Kay Henry will lead the march, and supporters are descending on the Poconos to join the rally from cities including Philadelphia, New York, Boston - even as far away as Wisconsin and Colorado.
In case PMC thinks its dedicated workers, many who've been with the company for more than 10 years, are cowering to these demands, they have another thing coming. SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry:
"Pocono Medical Center's campaign to intimidate caregivers and silence their voice is part of the same assault on working people and the middle class that we're seeing in Wisconsin, Ohio, New Hampshire, and across the country.
"Like the nurses and teachers in Madison and Columbus, PMC workers are standing up for good jobs and a voice at work. We are linking arms with neighbors and residents in East Stroudsburg and across the country to win the good jobs our families and communities desperately need."
"We've already been forced out on strike twice because of management's union-busting," said Jessi Irvine, a phlebotomist at the hospital. "It's outrageous that management continues to cause more conflict and disruption putting patient care at risk at the only hospital in our community."
Judy Reaser, a pharmacy tech at the hospital, agrees this fight isn't just about them, "We formed our union so we could better advocate for our patients and make PMC a place where you can have a job that you can support a family on."
To keep this in perspective, the hospital made more than $21 million in profits last year, and the average wage for a PMC worker is $3,000 less annually than the self-sufficient standard for a family of four in Monroe County, where PMC is located.
"I owned my own home for 10 years, but gas went up, electricity went up. The price of everything went up, but my wages didn't keep up. I had to sell my house and now I rent. You just can't run a household on the wages we make," said Judy Reaser.
The company is attempting to break the backs of the workers and the union, and bring a Wisconsin-like anti-worker atmoshphere to this small working class community. Is this what the new America looks like?
"People across the country are watching what is happening here in East Stroudsburg," said Mary Kay Henry. "It is time for PMC to respect its caregivers, settle a fair contract and work together to create good, family-sustaining jobs."
Follow Saturday's March & Rally
If you are unable to march with us on person, follow every step we make on the SEIU Blog, Facebook and Twitter. When you see any update at all, please send it off to your followers and r/t on Twitter. We will be posting with hashtag #PMC.
You can show your solidarity for PMC workers by commenting on this post at bottom.