Dozens of health care workers demonstrated outside the main building of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania on Wednesday afternoon to “rally for respect” from their employers.
The rally was organized by Philadelphia’s District 1199C, an affiliate of the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees (NUHHCE) that represents hospital workers. All the workers in attendance were union members. Although they work at HUP, the hospital workers were not directly employed by Penn Medicine, but by sister companies Crothall Healthcare and Morrison Healthcare, which provide HUP with employees. Together, Crothall and Morrison are known as Compass One.
According to Salima Pace, organizer and union representative for Crothall at HUP, workers were unhappy with their employer's failure to follow the contractual grievance procedure and their implementation of an “unfair” retroactive audit of paid or personal time off (PTO) that was not discussed with workers beforehand.
“There’s a lot of issues going on within the hospital in both food services and [environmental services], so our members just wanted to come out here today, let the public know, let visitors know, let patients know what kind of employer is inside the hospital,” Chris Woods, executive vice-president of NUHHCE in District 1199C, said.
Patrick Norton, Penn Medicine's vice president for public affairs, said that even though these workers are not employed by Penn Medicine, the school respects its right to protest.
“While they are not employed by Penn Medicine, we value the contributions they make each day to help fulfill our mission to care for patients and their families, and we respect their right to express their views," he wrote in an emailed statement. "Please direct any additional inquiries to the employer, Morrison & Crothall.”
The Daily Pennsylvanian has reached out to press representatives from the Compass One group for comment and is waiting to hear back.
Pace said the union believes hospital administrators have re-examined workers' PTO from 2005 and recalled money in the process.
“They did an audit on the member’s time and said that if the members told them any time in 2005 until now, they’re taking it back, which is unfair," Pace explained. "You cannot tell a person you messed up for 10 years and then all of a sudden say, hey, we want our money back … These people don’t make a lot of money. All of our members make under $20 an hour. ”
The workers clustered on the road outside the HUP building, waving large yellow “SOLIDARITY” flags and chanting.
Pace also said union members have been frustrated by the “disorganization” of Crothall’s management at HUP, and that union members have brought up these issues at several monthly labor management meetings.
“We ask for these things, they make promises and they do not keep them,” Pace said. “The next step is to do an even bigger rally, [and then] the next step is a strike, where we have our members actually walk off the job.”
The rally was scheduled between 3-5 p.m. Woods said people began congregating outside the hospital at 2 p.m. and estimated that 300 people showed up to take part in the rally over the course of the afternoon. At 4:45 p.m., roughly 60 protestors were present.
Woods said union members are going to keep organizing and “pushing back."
“We got more people that’s energized right now, that want some changes," Woods said. "So we’re going to be out here until we get those changes."