Baltimore Sinai Hospital Workers Demand Affordable Medical Coverage and Better Wages

Story Transcript

MEGAN SHERMAN, TRNN CORRESPONDENT: On Wednesday, February 10, health care workers from Sinai Hospital in northwest Baltimore held a demonstration to protest the employee insurance plan that has been proposed by the hospital’s leadership.

Lisa Epps, a Sinai employee and member of 1199 United Healthcare Workers East spoke about what they’re hoping to accomplish.

LISA EPPS, ORGANIZER, 1199 UNITED HEALTHCARE WORKERS EAST: We’re out here today because we represent the service and maintenance unit here at Sinai Hospital, which are the housekeepers, dietary, maintenance, transporters here. They’re out here because management is refusing to offer affordable health insurance and give them a decent raise. So what we’re trying to do is send a message to Sinai to please offer us, give us affordable health insurance.

SHERMAN: The Real News reached out to Sinai Hospital for a statement about the demonstration. They responded by saying that

“We have been working in good faith over the past few months to negotiate a new agreement with our technical and maintenance workers. We look forward to continuing this discussion in the coming days to reach an agreement with these employees, who play a valuable role in our mission to provide the best care possible for our patients.”

Organizers are saying that employees do not make enough money to be able to afford the costs associated with the proposed health care plan.

EPPS: We have been in collective bargaining with them since September of last year, and they are bargaining with us. But they still have not came to the table with a health insurance plan that we can likely afford. These workers here are the lowest-paid workers in the hospital, and they can’t always afford to go to the doctors and pay for prescriptions. They can’t always afford to buy groceries and get prescriptions filled. They deserve affordable health care and a decent raise.

SHERMAN: Many of the employees who work at Sinai earn far below the poverty level for a family of four, which is $11.47 an hour. Some of the lowest-paid workers earn less than $10.80 an hour.

Lisa introduced us to Kim Jones, also an employee at Sinai, who went through an ordeal after she had surgery and was not able to get the physical therapy that she needed.

EPPS: Kim Jones is a worker here, and Kim had surgery, and she scheduled to have therapy twice a week. But she often doesn’t go to therapy, because she can’t afford to go to therapy. But you expect her to come to work every day on time and give 100 percent when–Sinai hospital, when are you going to help her get healthy? How are you going to help her get healthy?

SHERMAN: Ms. Jones spoke about why it’s important for workers in the medical field to have health care and earn a living wage.

KIM JONES, UNION DELEGATE/SINAI HOSPITAL EMPLOYEE: People do get sick in there. And if you get sick and go to the emergency room here at Sinai Hospital, it’s a $100 deductible. The hospital want to raise a 3.3 percent in health care here. Workers in there cannot afford health care that the hospital that have rolled out at this point.

EPPS: It just makes sense for health care workers to naturally be healthy. They work in a prestigious hospital, such as Sinai Hospital, and the insurance company is ran by Sinai hospital. And what we’re saying is make it affordable for your workers to be healthy.

JONES: We work in a facility where we’re supposed to care for a patient. But why while we are caring for patient, who caring for us?

SHERMAN: The current Sinai employee contract has been extended several times since negotiations began in September 2014 and is set to expire on February 19, 2015. The Real News will continue to follow the story as it develops.

This is Megan Sherman reporting with The Real News Network.

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