Hopkins Hospital Workers Speak Out against "Poverty Wages"

Hopkins Hospital Workers Speak Out against "Poverty Wages"

The Real News talks to workers at Baltimore's internationally renowned Johns Hopkins Hospital as they prepare for a possible strike in order to obtain a $15 hourly wage -   April 4, 2014
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Jaisal Noor is a producer for The Real News Network. His stories have appeared on Democracy Now!, Free Speech Radio News and other independent news outlets. Jaisal was raised in the Baltimore-area, and has a degree in history from the University of Maryland, College Park.


Hopkins Hospital Workers Speak Out against JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: So I'm here at Johns Hopkins campus in Mount Washington in Baltimore. We just spoke to some workers a few moments ago. We'll tell you what they said. I just wanted to say we were escorted off this campus by Hopkins security, even though other media were allowed to film here earlier today.

1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, which represents the 2,000 Hopkins employees, says the starting wage is $10.71, and 1,400 people are paid less than $14.91 an hour. The Baltimore Brew reports this wage "qualifies a family of four for food stamps."

The hospital did not respond to our interview request, but told other media outlets in a statement, quote, "We are negotiating in good faith, working to reach a settlement that's fair to everyone and reflects financial responsibility on the part of the hospital." (Hopkins spokeswoman Kim Hoppe)


NOOR: What's your response? Do you feel like you get paid fairly for what you do?

CURTIS DANIELS, TRANSPORTER AT JOHNS HOPKINS HOSPITAL: No, I do not feel like I'm getting paid fairly. If I was getting paid fairly, then I wouldn't have to work two jobs. One job just pays the rent and everything that comes along with the household, and the other job is just so I can put gas in the care and do the other little things, you know, market and everything else. So, no, I'm not getting paid fairly, and no, this doesn't pay the bills.

NOOR: Are you willing to go on strike to get your demands met?

DANIELS: I don't want to go on strike, but I'll do what's necessary to get what we need.

NOOR: So going on strike is a big sacrifice, 'cause you're not getting paid. So what would that mean to you if you went on strike and you weren't getting money and, you know, if you weren't getting paid from this job at Hopkins? How would that impact you?

DANIELS: Well, it'll impact me a lot. But sometimes you have to sacrifice in order to get where you need to be. You know. And if I don't do this, what am I going to do? I'm nowhere now. So, you know, a strike is necessary. Like I said, it's not--it's something that none of the union employees want to do, but we'll have to do what we have to do.


MELVINNA ALFORD, SUPPORT ASSOCIATE, JOHNS HOPKINS HOSPITAL: I've been there for 15 years, and I make under $13 an hour. So I just want them to show me where--if you've been there for 15 years, you should be making a little under or over $13 an hour.

I feel like I've earned it and other employees have earned it. And I feel like if they can find money to do other things for Hopkins, they can find money for the employees also.

NOOR: So negotiations broke down, and the workers say they're willing to go on strike. Talk about why you're willing to go on strike and what you're fighting for.

ALFORD: Right now we don't really want to go on strike. But we have to look out for our other employees at the hospital. We're fighting for fair wages for all Hopkins employees.

I have three children. I have a 14-year-old, I have a 16-year-old, and I have a six-year-old stepson.

I make a little over $13 an hour. Right now I can't even afford to put my children on my Hopkins insurance. I have to get medical assistance from the state. And right now I'm living paycheck to paycheck, basically.

NOOR: And so what kind of impact does that--so talk about how that affects your life, like, on a day-to-day basis.

ALFORD: I really don't have much money to do what I want to do, and I feel like we earn what we're asking for, we earn not to live paycheck to paycheck and try to find a way to pay our bills and other things that's going on, plus take care of our home and our children.

NOOR: Some experts say that if you do go on strike, it would be easy for them to replace you guys, and Hopkins has said they're prepared for a strike and, you know, there wouldn't be, like, a work stoppage. What's your response to that?

ALFORD: I'm pretty sure they are prepared for a strike. I'm pretty sure that they're taking non-union workers and putting them in their old spot, and I believe that they don't believe that we're striking for more than one day. They might not feel it the first day, but the next day after that and the next day after that they will feel it, because they can't do what they're paying us to do. We've been trained to do what we do. We're good at what we do.


NOOR: Where do the Hopkins workers fit in? Because there's been a national call to raise the minimum wage. We've seen fast food workers go on strike around the country demanding $15 an hour. President Obama's called for a $10.10 minimum wage, which is less than what you're already making. But do you see--and so talk about what your demands are and how Hopkins workers fit into the national picture of people that are getting paid low wages demanding more money.

DANIELS: Well, you know, Hopkins workers are--we're low-paid. And that's just the natural truth of the situation. And if we were getting paid, you know, equal wages, then we wouldn't be out here. And, you know, it's just sad that we have to be this way. And we're low, we're low-paid. Great hospital, low-paid employees. And that's just the way it is.

NOOR: And what's your message to the leadership at Johns Hopkins today?

DANIELS: We need fair wages. And they know that. And, you know, if we give them fair work, we deserve fair wages.


NOOR: The Real News will keep following developments in this story.

With Mark Provost, this is Jaisal Noor in Baltimore.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


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