STATEMENT: Keystone Research Center on Announcement that UPMC Will Pay Workers At Least $15/Hour

Date of Press Release: 
March 31, 2016

Stephen Herzenberg, Executive Director of Keystone Research Center, made the following statement on the announcement that UPMC will pay its workers at least $15 per hour:

“Keystone Research Center congratulates workers and their community partners in Pittsburgh for a successful campaign that led UPMC to announce that it will raise the wages of all of its workers to at least $15 per hour. These workers demonstrate a simple way that Pittsburgh – and Pennsylvania and the United States – can restore broadly shared prosperity: by lifting into the middle class the wages of jobs tied to the local area, most of which are in service industries.

“If health care workers, fast food and restaurant workers, supermarket and retail workers, caregivers, janitors, educators (in early education through contingent faculty in higher education), security guards and office workers are paid a decent wage, we can end the one-percent economy and all families can once again benefit from growth. It is that simple because an overwhelming majority of today’s jobs that do not support a family are in sectors whose customers are local and which therefore cannot relocate.

“In Pittsburgh and western Pennsylvania, UPMC, the largest private-sector employer in the state, has the scale and importance to trigger an overall shift of low-wage jobs into the middle class. UPMC’s move to $15 per hour sets a precedent for the health care sector and the broader service and non-mobile jobs sectors. It also makes more tangible just how easy it would be to establish a new area-wide social contract with the level of equity for which Pittsburgh was famous from the 1950s to the 1970s.

“We all owe the workers and their community allies that won this victory a debt of gratitude. All of Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania suffer because of the level of economic inequality that has arisen since 1980, accompanied by political inequality because of the rise of the donor class. All of our lives are diminished when our economic realities no longer honor the value Americans place in widespread economic opportunity and when economic gaps among communities undercut equal educational opportunity.

“Now and into the future, this is how we change labor markets and create a future we can all look too with optimism instead of unease – through workers and their communities coming together to insist on an economy that works for all. Workers earned a seat at the decision-making table. Employers would not make these changes on their own, and elected leaders could not make them on their own.

“To build on this victory, workers now need a seat at the decision-making table on a permanent basis – through what we call a union. It’s happening everywhere but Pittsburgh is ahead of the curve. It is time for employers to recognize that allowing their workers the real freedom to form a union, and to lift up wages and benefits in sector after sector, creates more economy-boosting jobs and makes everyone better off.”