Pittsburgh residents can't go far without seeing some evidence of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). The healthcare goliath's million dollar sign tops the U.S. Steel tower, and UPMC hospitals and medical facilities dot the city. The company's billboards and bus ads are a reminder of just how real - and how very big - UPMC is.
And, just in case you had any doubts, the company's website boasts that it is Pennsylvania's largest employer with 55,000 employees. It's fair to say that Pittsburgh, once a booming steel city, is still a company town. But instead of steel, it's UPMC, a "$10 billion global healthcare enterprise."
Yet, in spite of its omnipresence, an article in this week's (Pittsburgh) City Paper reports the shocking news that UPMC doesn't actually exist, at least according it's lawyers.
The claim that it is not an employer comes as the company tries to sweep under the rug allegations that it illegally harassed and intimidated workers for attempting to have a voice on the job and create middle class jobs.
How it all started
Last month, Region 6 of the National Labor Relations Board issued a 30-page complaint that found more than 80 violations of workers' rights by 59 top UPMC managers and executives. The violations were part of an aggressive and hostile anti-union campaign waged against UPMC employees' who wanted to fight for better wages.
UPMC lawyers in January attempted to invalidate the complaint by filing a motion with NLRB claiming it is only a holding company, it has no employees (only directors and officers), it has no operations, and it does not do business.
This notion is news, shocking news in fact, to UPMC employees.
Marcus Ptomey, a UPMC employee who wants to have a voice on the job and a collective fight for better wages, this week distributed flyers to his colleagues about UPMC claims. "I handed the flyer to some nurses, who were really upset and confused," Ptomey said. "They pointed to their uniform logos, which say UPMC, and asked, 'If UPMC does not employee people, then what is this?'"
After calling SEIU's allegations of hostile, anti-union activity by UPMC executives and managers an "outright fabrication", UPMC now wants the public to believe its very existence as an employer is the fabrication.
Besides insulting our intelligence, this claim is a slap in the face to taxpayers whose generosity has helped the company thrive. The company's Allegheny County properties are valued at $2.5 billion. It receives millions in tax breaks for being a charity, and it brings home millions in profits.
UPMC has made an art of ducking its responsibilities to the Pittsburgh community. It doesn't contribute its fair share to public services, it puts profits and empire building above the health of the community, and it drives down wages for all workers by paying many of its employees poverty wages.
UPMC employees simply are attempting to have a voice on the job and to advocate for family-sustaining wages. Instead of being a good neighbor and objectively hearing the concerns of its workers, UPMC has attempted an absurd legal trick to avoid being held accountable for flaunting federal labor law.
Fortunately, UPMC workers have resolve. They are standing up and letting UPMC know they will not be silenced through an aggressive social media and organizing campaign. To learn more, go to makeitourupmc.org.