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Unions File Antitrust Criticism In opposition to UPMC & Allege ‘Draconian’ Labor Practices


A gaggle of labor unions filed an antitrust criticism towards UPMC, the 18th largest hospital chain within the nation, on Thursday. The plaintiffs alleged that the well being system has prevented its staff from having the ability to advocate for themselves and their sufferers by way of “a draconian system of mobility restrictions and widespread labor regulation violations that lock in sub-competitive pay and dealing situations.” UPMC advised MedCity Information that it denies these allegations.

Pittsburgh-based UPMC employs 92,000 folks, making it the biggest non-public sector employer in Pennsylvania. The well being system at the moment operates 40 hospitals and 800 outpatient services, which usher in an annual income of $26 billion. Final yr, UPMC reported a $916 million loss.

Thursday’s criticism towards UPMC was filed by SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, a union of healthcare staff and caregivers within the state, and the Strategic Organizing Middle, a coalition of three labor unions. The unions alleged that UPMC has constructed a monopsony. This happens when an organization turns into the only purchaser of a very good or service in a area, whereas a monopoly refers to 1 firm being the only producer of a very good or service. 

The plaintiffs argued that UPMC created a monopsony as a result of it has accomplished at the very least 28 acquisitions between 1996 and 2019. But, throughout this time interval, the well being system additionally closed 4 hospitals and downsized three others, leading to 353 eradicated beds and 1,800 job losses. These mergers and the following reductions in capability have “harmed competitors in each enter and output markets,” the unions wrote within the criticism.

The unions additionally alleged that UPMC “engaged in a multi-faceted marketing campaign” to uphold and strengthen its monopsony energy over its staff and stop them from leaving. 

One of many marketing campaign’s ways was to suppress wages whereas reducing staffing and rising workloads, in keeping with the criticism. The plaintiffs referenced a examine carried out by Econ One Analysis, which confirmed that UPMC’s shopping for energy in labor markets has artificially saved wages low for its staff. The analysis confirmed that when the well being system’s market share will increase, its staff’ wages lower relative to comparable hospital workers at a price of 30 to 57 cents per hour on common in lowered pay for each 10% enhance in UPMC’s market share. 

The criticism additionally alleged that UPMC protected its means to supply sub-competitive pay and poor working situations by way of noncompete clauses and “do-not-rehire” blacklisting for staff. The well being system additionally restricted staff’ labor regulation rights in order that they couldn’t type unions to enhance their working situations, the criticism charged.

The unions additionally argue that UPMC’s staffing ranges have been dangerously low in recent times. The criticism stated that as of 2020, the well being system’s worker-to-patient staffing ratios are 19% decrease than the typical ratios at non-UPMC hospitals. It additionally declared that UPMC’s staffing ratios correlate negatively with its market share, as ratios are the bottom the place the well being system has increased market shares and highest the place it has decrease market shares. 

Of their criticism, the plaintiffs cited UPMC staff’ testimonies at a September listening to to state lawmakers concerning staffing issues at Pittsburgh-area hospitals. At that listening to, one worker, Kya Humphries, stated it’s extremely troublesome to offer high quality care “when each single particular person concerned in care” has been stretched to their breaking level.

“After we’re offering care with out sufficient workers, we all know sufferers aren’t getting meals on time or ready too lengthy to make use of the lavatory. We all know that extra falls will occur. We all know we’re not going to have the ability to present the type of care that we wish to. That’s not honest to the sufferers, and it’s not honest to the employees who’re doing all the pieces they will to present their sufferers the perfect care they will,” Humphries stated.

The unions argued that if UPMC have been topic to aggressive market pressures, the well being system could be compelled to boost wages so as to appeal to extra staff and supply enough staffing ranges. However as an alternative, the well being system has leveraged its monopsony energy within the markets the place it operates to “insulate it from the stress of competitors,” the plaintiffs wrote.

In a press release to MedCity Information, UPMC Chief Communications Officer Paul Wooden stated that the well being system is shifting to $18 per hour for its non-union workforce by 2025. He known as this the very best entry-level wage of any healthcare supplier within the state. 

Wooden declared that UPMC gives its nursing care based mostly on sufferers’ wants and acuity quite than fastened staffing ratios. This permits the well being system to “workers with flexibility,” he countered. He additionally denied that the well being system blacklists its workers who depart from being rehired by one other UPMC facility.

This isn’t the primary time UPMC has come beneath hearth for protecting wages low and stopping staff from unionizing. In January, two Pennsylvania lawmakers warned their constituents concerning the well being system, claiming that its anti-competitive practices have negatively affected each worker wellbeing and affected person security. 

Picture: Bet_Noire, Getty Pictures

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